(Photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Twenty-Five (2006 ~ 35 years)
Burn Baby Burn
‘The nature of the mind is such that it
becomes that which it intensely thinks upon. Thus, if you
think of the vices and defects of another man, your mind
will be charged with those defects and vices at least for the
time being. He who knows this psychological law will never
indulge in censuring others or in finding fault in the conduct
of others.’ ~ Sivananda
Rory and I had a tumultuous few hours when we got home from the club trying to communicate, trying to have fun, trying to be amorous like ‘normal’ couples. I gave up on our love-less ordeal at 3.30ish. It wasn’t a good start to a happy New Year, and we both woke early-ish to go to the toilet; and I re-awoke at 9ish needing to go again, and did my usual wee in the potty quietly heaving myself back into bed without waking him. Rory had been trying to catch up on sleep so I didn’t want disturbed him again, after yesterday morning’s upheaval…
Once up an hour or so later, an eerie quiet pervaded us all morning. The weather was hot and sticky and I allowed my hair to hang down my back and around my shoulders, not wishing to ask Rory to tie it up, defiant against his bad and moody behaviour, as well as against my inability to perform the simple task of tying my own hair up… a task I could easily do most my life.
Feeling like a child unable to affect my own existence to any great degree, going along with whatever life brought to me due to my situation, I rebelled by being quiet and pensive, confused and bewildered, lost as to why I seemed to be taking yet another misroute.
My introspective brooding began to brew in thick of the day as temperatures soared and a deadly silence pervaded the surrounding neighbourhood. Soon we smelt smoke and Rory quickly went outside to investigate, returning with alarming news. Bush fires could be seen on the surrounding mountaintops and neighbours were preparing to evacuate! I’d recently heard that a fire takes only half an hour to reach the bottom of a mountain, and here in Australia we mostly have mountains the size of hills.
My first thought was to call Mum who was having a few days break at Doug’s. I told her the situation and she said she’d be home immediately. Next, I asked Rory to assist me into my room where I could copy my autobiography onto disks and retrieve other back-up disks. Suddenly, I was very grateful to have Rory with me. Gloomy or not, his presence was a blessing… not being able to save yourself from a fire ignites the greatest gratitude inside to those willing to help.
When Mum arrived, Rory quickly drove to his house to collect a few important things, as his place was actually on the mountainside, nearer to the impending danger. While he was gone, I felt vulnerable, disbelieving that I was relying on him more than ever, now so utterly grateful he was in my life…
He returned about an hour later, just as fire crew closed the end of his street, and although he’d collected a few things of sentiment in time, he was nonchalant about losing his possessions, a non-attachment I admired in him. But, our situation involved two precious cats and a cumbersome me, so I thanked God for sending him to us! All the while, I reflected over the difference changing circumstances could make!
Mum, Rory and I rolled down our street after a while, to escape the hot house and take a closer look at the flickering fires burning along the not too distant ridges at the end of our road. Neighbours were aplenty walking about taking in the spectacle. We spoke to a few as we moved along, enquiring as to if and when we should be leaving. The closer we went to the fires we cast our thoughts to the wildlife inevitably suffering unseen yet so near to us.
Although people had loaded personal belongings into their cars in anticipation, and Mum had packed a few meaningful things into our car, the word on the street was to stay put for now. Returning home to the cool of our air-conditioning working in overdrive, we escaped the smoky air and thick heat of 44+ degrees Celsius, and watched through our lounge room window, the setting sun cast a magnificent crimson as a backdrop to fires that moved along and down the closest hillside, now less than 200 metres away.
A knock at the front door telling us it was time to evacuate was expected any moment. We had the cats inside in preparation; but, when a fireman finally did knock on our door, it took a few moments to register that the face inside the suit was none other than our neighbour Tim, a volunteer fireman. Tim had come to check on us and as he calmly stood at the door, I pointed to the fire behind him creeping steadily down the hill towards peoples’ backyards.
‘Ah, that’s burn-off,’ he reassured with a wave of his hand, instantly relaxing our minds. It was a relief to know the fires were under control and rescue workers were doing their best to minimise future fire hazards!
ALL THE FIREMEN IN THE WORLD couldn’t put out the flames roaring inside Rory’s world or my naïve aspirations to alleviate them. My efforts to broach our New Year’s Eve unhappiness came four days later by responding to his usual, happy, ‘Good morning Gorgeous’ text with the words, ‘Shame you can’t be so happy when it matters most’. He called me at lunch and said, ‘Got your message, and I got it’, which was supposed to be enough wipe away all the unhappiness that occurred during the momentous night heralding in all others for the year. Some song came on in the background about not letting go, and he said, ‘I’m not letting go’.
Dad took me to the Gosford Cancer Clinic to have my skin checked later that day and we picked Rory up from work on the way home, happy my skin was given the all clear. I felt a strange anticipation before picking him up, and as we drove along Rory was being affectionate, smiling in the back seat, reaching over massaging my shoulders, and offering me his hand. Of course, I held it. I never recoiled from love and affection.
On reaching Woy Woy, Dad bought two longneck beers each for them and we parked at the waterfront while they drank. I played a Beth Ortan CD, and while she sang her melancholic yet magnetic tunes, I sensed Rory’s energies slowly yet quickly change. By the time we reached my house after parting ways with Dad, he was grumpy. Just two large beers and less than normal energies from me (still not recovered from New Year’s Eve), were all the ingredients for him to seep deeper into dark and strange behaviour. He ended up going home early and out-of-the-blue, upset that I wasn’t being my normal, affectionate, and cheery self with him.
I spoke with Rory the next day, which we shouldn’t have attempted because he’d had a couple of drinks before arriving at my house. The alcohol emitting from his pores reeked. I didn’t venture to tell him that, and when I asked if he’d been drinking he said yes.
I simply told him, ‘A true conversation of spiritual depth would never happen between you and me while you have alcohol running through your veins’. However, that being said, conversations of some depth had occurred over our time together because I realised he only really had discussions of worth when he’d had a few. Depth didn’t seem to interest him when he was straight. So, we went ahead and talked…
But, the focus usually ended up being about me. Rory often turned our talks to some form of character assassination and on this day he confronted my spiritual history. He suggested I hadn’t read most of the books on my bookshelf insinuating I haven’t accumulated spiritual knowledge. Because many of my books were spiritual text book rather than novels, I hadn’t read all of them from start to finish. He wanted to get nitty-gritty about that, and certainly didn’t listen when I told him about what I’d been through in and learnt the past, or perceive for himself how I handled my daily life experiences—including with him, to see that I was living my spirituality. That I was doing it!
I understood that Rory misinterpreted me through his own eyes and personal life experience filter. He lovingly said on a few occasions that he was not accustomed to dealing with someone like me… Then, eventually—sometimes less than an hour—he would lapse and continue irrationally with suggestions such as I threw things back into his face that he’d told me in the past, in a way that suggested I’d purposely hurt him.
Probably only for my benefit and during a nicer moment, Rory would willingly say that he was sometimes out of his mind, sometimes losing it. I would say nothing to make him feel worse, only offer understanding and friendship. The couple of times he said this I held my breath, thankful he’d had a breakthrough. I whispered in reassurance that it was ultimately his choice to lose control of his mind. Explaining from what I’d learned, that he had chosen to lose control, and during those times he was hurting himself and harming others. He totally agreed with that but failed to apologise for any harm he may have caused me along the way. I reiterated vipassana teachings, saying that controlling the mind is the most difficult but worthwhile job there is in the world!
On this day, we moved from my bedroom (and daytime office), into the lounge-room and spoke more. I continued to dodge verbal run-downs, avert his potentially sensitive spots, and try to re-build fragile bridges Rory was insistent on burning down. I knew he was in pain. He’d had a bad, fiery, and frightfully loveless upbringing. Ultimately, Rory wasn’t even talking to me… He was drawing from a fathomless pool of experiences he went through with his mother, father, and two wives, so not one part of him could have understood that I had made a life commitment not to harm or hurt anyone intentionally… On the defensive, he simply saw my way of facing one’s own mistakes as attacking him.
My attempts were rare in pointing out where I thought he was in the wrong. I mustered inner courage the few times I was brave enough to inspire him to face what he clearly saw as not his responsibility/cause/fault. During these times, I had non-alcoholic liquids running through my system. I couldn’t pick a time when he was clear-thinking. That’s why I rarely bothered to get down to where it mattered. I usually smoked marijuana, and aside from enjoying it, it placated me during the entire Rory situation. ‘Marijuana, the modern women’s valium,’ a friend recently stated.
* * *
After the incredible reconnection healings I experienced last year, I decided to become personally reconnected. This healing technique reconnects us to the fullness of the universe as it reconnects us to the fullness of our beings and of who we are. It is considered to be able to reconnect us through a new set of healing frequencies, possibly an entirely new bandwidth. The existence of these healing frequencies has been demonstrated in practice as well as in science laboratories. And, being in deep need of reconnection to the universe and to myself both mystically and logically, I knew there personal sessions were a great investment.
During my first reconnection, I my body shifted sideward and downward with a firm gravity pull. Then I felt a lovely flowing shifting motion. My hands seemed to activate instantly, and my vibrations felt strong. Almost immediately, my left foot strongly twitched, followed by my right foot in the second half of the session.
I felt somewhat spacey when we’d finished, but still envisioned getting off the massage table in a secure fashion. Although it took a while to shift my body along the table to allow room for my body to get onto my walker, I was able to get off the table with two firm feet! And, my legs felt stronger!
The second personal reconnection was as uplifting yet grounding as the first, and during my final session, I felt very peaceful and timeless. My left foot twitched somewhat towards the end, but not the right. I experienced my purple light more vibrantly than the other times, and my eyes were making many rapid movements. The vibrations in my hands increased noticeably and a clockwise shifting sensation occurred sporadically throughout my body. The session seemed to go quickly. Gale said I was opening up to receive vast information. She also advised me to send much love onto my body, ‘Imagine that your body was once hanging on a rack and you said I want that one, I’ve chosen that one’. Her concluding words were that I was a very old soul, with great depth and peace. Caressing my face loving, she told me that I was like a flower that no one could look upon without experiencing/enjoying/benefiting from my essence.
While Gale walked round me three times to seal King Solomon’s Seal, which symbolises among other things: the harmony of opposites, the cosmic order, super-human wisdom and rule by divine grace, I quietly thanked the universe for providing such wonderful gifts and opportunities for all loving souls ready to be the best living beings we could possibly be!
* * *
Throughout the next pages of this chapter
Health greatly improves with Chinese medicine and acupuncture… although, electricity still burns sporadically in right foot…
Battles with Rory ~ ‘everyone has a right to be angry; no one has a right to be cruel’.
On constant tender hooks asking for assistance I’m unable to perform, especially when Rory wants to self-indulge.
Rory struggles with spiritual revelations and finds some liberating, karmic understanding. Short-lived peace prevails.
Feeling a burden on Mum and a burden on Rory: understand euthanasia.
Dream of my past friendly and loving relationships with friends and exs.
Loaded with jealousy over my healing massages, and inability to cease addictions and anger, Rory and I agree that he’s not my predestined man, but the man of the moment.
Tumble with greyhounds in the sea… Rory to the rescue.
Long drives with Dad to Camden for chiropractic prove beneficial.
Crave future partner of like-mindedness and spiritual compatibility
Connection with writers around the world.
Rory goes DUI again with me sitting beside him.
Buddhist and Ammachi spiritual blasts, my Sports Illustrated sister, and loves from the past.
Sitar performances in my lounge room, John of God, Steve Waugh, and psychic readings…
New healing modalities, school visits, my first public performance, constant rowing with Rory… and so much more……..
(Photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Twenty-Four (2005 ~ 34 years)
On top of a Slippery Slide
To help another is the greatest thing; unless they don’t want to be helped
"The reality of the other person is not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather to what he does not say. Of Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran"
Rory and I eventually came together physically. All my refusals had weakened to agree and I became attracted to his energy and promises of experiencing great love.
I mindfully protected myself for our impromptu relationship—a relationship I would have had more confidence in if Rory had given up even one of his worst habits, as he promised on New Year’s Eve. ‘I was going to give up cigarettes…now I’m going to give up alcohol’, he asserted after going DUI.
He wished to give up cigarettes initially, but after the police fright, he declared he was giving alcohol away. Strangely, I believed him. At first, he cut down on both, and I hoped cutting down would be enough for me. I knew myself well enough to realise I was boring when it came to alcohol, and had difficulty remaining in harmony with people erratically under its influence. I also hoped cutting down would be enough for him. He had asthma, so the less smoking the better.
A karmic test on his resolve came the very next day when the police stopped us again, in the early evening of January 1. Luckily, Rory had had only one beer during the day and a glass of wine. After blowing in the bag and registering a reading of under 0.5, he appreciated being told to drive on and have a good night. However deep down, I knew it was only a matter of time before he had one drink too many and went again. I desperately didn’t want to be again sitting beside him when he did…
I worried more than I usually would because Rory didn’t eat much and drank often on a near empty stomach… conscious body abuse, in my eyes. I sincerely hoped my love and tolerance would continue during this time, trusting that whatever would be would be. I didn’t want to impose anything on him. I had no right to. I sent many prayers to the Universe, to God asking for help to see clearly, love clearly, dearly, wisely. Rory seemed to be a beautiful man; I wished to keep our friendship and energy precious for each other. I prayed for guidance that I was on the right track and for no harm to come to either of us, or to the planet.
* * *
In mid-February, I spoke as a motivational speaker for the Wesley Mission staff meeting at Ryde Eastwood Leagues Club, compliments of my eternal friend Paul. Paul was chairing the meeting and invited me to give a talk. I was delighted! The talk was similar to the one I gave the Post School Options staff last January, although the discussion wasn’t as expansive. Only three people asked questions and I felt it was due to the rectangle table set up and not asking open-ended questions to invite topic discussion. The talk was a little raw; I was out of practice and my inspiration felt depleted. My mind had been too intent on other things not world-changing for the greater whole. I’d been too concerned about Rory and too wrapped up in the emotions of emotion; I felt I’d lost something.
Two incidences occurred at the club that re-affirmed my connection to the beautiful universe. I met a man named Jim O’Shea. Sometime ago he’d had a stroke and he limped up the stairs in front of us. I called out congratulations when he reached the top. He came over and I picked his accent as coming from Kinsale, Ireland, because my flatmate in London was from Kinsale and sounded just like him.
We had a wonderful talk and he gave me a business card that had a Leeds, West Yorkshire address on the back, which I thought was a sign, as Rory came from there. He said we’d meet up after the talk and sure enough he waited in the bistro. He informed me he had a vision that morning from a friend who had had MS before she passed over.
He told me he said to her, ‘You don’t visit me very often these days. What have you got to tell me?’
She smiled a huge smile and said, ‘You’ll see’. On our meeting, Jim said he felt he was meant to meet me that day and had two books to give me! The Reconnection and Ask and It Is Given.
The other incident involved a woman who worked at the club named Trish. She was in the bistro and saw me wheeling myself sitting cross-legged (one knee up) in my chair.
She said, ‘What’s a beautiful girl like you doing in a wheelchair? You should be up running about!’
I told her my problem and she moved into psychic mode predicting I would be up walking again, but may need crutches. Trish also said the man I was seeing wasn’t right for me, and in the future I would meet the man would take me in the palm of his hands and love me splendidly. I inquired if he could be the same man who had transformed from his current ways. She said he might be, but didn’t offer assurance.
IN LATE FEBRUARY, I rang the fire farm and spoke to Luke. Luke and Grace had told me about Shastri and I needed verification to remain on my believing track. I gave Luke a quick run down on my current situation and of the contrasts to Shastri’s timings and predictions. For example, I was no longer drinking the mid-stream of my morning urine, as it was physically difficult for me to perform. Shastri had said my karma was far too good to be suffering, and if that was so, not drinking my urine shouldn’t have any ultimate affect on my healing. I told Luke my book was already supposed to be released, and of its outcome as predicted by Shastri. I also told him of the man I was meant to meet in November 1999 to August 2000. I didn’t meet him during that period, and if he was the one I was with now, then he was supposed to have never thought of marriage.
Rory had married twice! Because of his obvious unawareness on how to have a relationship, I had immediately and arrogantly presumed he’d never had a meeting of minds with his wives and therefore had ‘never thought of marriage’ (in the words Shastri expressed). Luke said perhaps I’d met the wrong man. He also said he didn’t like dates in predictions and advised me to pray and follow my heart. He also strongly recommended performing Agnihotra again for my health and safety. Getting up and down for sunrise and sunsets fires for Agnihotra was too hard for me physically to conduct anymore, at least I could still pray!
I didn’t pray enough… and Rory and I seemed to be evolving, even though we almost broke up towards the end of April. We broke up momentarily, but the goodbye cuddle made it heartrendingly impossible. There was far too much love between us to let go so quickly, without trying to make us work.
‘I am meant to be with you and you with me. Soul mates’, he wrote in a text message. So ready for higher love in my life, the romantic in me replied, ‘It certainly feels that way. Soul mates rule!’
The major thing standing between us was the same old thing… alcohol. Fire Water! From the beginning I told him I didn’t go out with drinkers. He convinced me it would all fall away…. just watch. Of course, it hadn’t simply fallen away. He reduced the quantity and frequency of his intake, but its insidious nature continued to rear its ugly head.
Even so, I still went out with him. We went to a Brackets and Jam Full Moon Festival on top of Kincumber Mountain reserve for a friend’s birthday celebration. Paul and other great friends were there to share the gathering. The drums were hypnotic and the speakers wonderfully loud and basey! I loved sitting beside Paul and friends as they stood moving to the beat in such an elevated atmosphere… my mind went flying back to dance parties.
On this occasion, an ex-musician from Midnight Oil was the star attraction on the didgerie-do, drawing large crowds. Cars were parked a quarter down the mountain. Fire dancers performed tricks with fire sticks and the drum circle was held outside under the starry night and full moon. Towards the end of the evening, I told Rory I couldn’t wait for us to be able to dance together. I loved his rhythm and beat! He agreed but added, ‘Even if, by some slight chance we don’t get to dance, we can always dance in our minds!’ Even though I told him I loved him, his statement took my breath away and touched my heart to the core. He felt like the answer to my prayers and dreams come true. Thinking, how much more depth would one want from a person? I wasn’t thinking clearly.
* * *
For the first time in my life, I attended a dawn Anzac Day ceremony. The alarm rang at 4.30 am and we rose easily after sleeping well together because Rory didn’t snore in his open-mouthed-creating-loud-popping noises way because he hadn’t had a big drinking session before bed. I’d taken to wearing ear plugs to try to sleep beside him despite the racket; but, nothing short of Rory reducing his drinking made much difference.
After tea and toast made by Mum, we were out the door 25 minutes later. Rory’s van bunny-hopped down the road and we thought we wouldn’t make it, wishing we had taken Mum’s car, but luckily she started up again. We arrived in Woy Woy a short time later, found a nearby car park, and after Rory unloaded the wheelchair then me, we quickly headed off to the service. A large number of people were still making their way to Memorial Park, and we joined the end of the march following a person pounding a drum.
At the gathering, candles were handed to us to symbolise the Anzac’s lives. The candlelight flickering in everyone’s hands warmed our hearts and uplifted our spirits, representing the light of souls that never diminishes. The service was incredibly moving. It’s surprising just how moving; I was surprised to be so deeply affected, and could have sobbed loudly thinking about the men’s spirits of Gallipoli and the extent of lives wasted. I allowed my heart to break quietly as tears rolled down my face. Two children were watching me when we faced the west to the sound of the bugle and I smiled through the tears, attempting to make myself appear light-hearted. The bugle blew when we turned east, and again my heart broke. I felt incredibly comforted and supported by Rory’s warm hand on my shoulder. There was no one else I wanted to share this moment with. Rory went every year, and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have even been there, as he invited me to attend with him, and knew the dynamics of how to help me!
Watching the pink sunrise, Rory and I shared a joint at the Woy Woy boat ramp car park after the service. We then went to the Ettalong Memorial Club for the bangers (sausages) and mash breakfast, put on in commemoration of the diggers’ last breakfast. In honour of how many drank their tea as a reprieve from battle, I tried a dash of rum in my tea, but it was too strong for me.
The morning concluded when we met an ex-soldier who told us tales of local history, complimenting the Anzac Day mood. Feeling the rush of experiencing a new and whole-heartedly worthwhile morning, Rory and I then visited my brother David for a few hours, where they drank beers and I smoked marijuana—a substance we could all enjoy together and was amazing at alleviating the searing pressure of sitting in a wheelchair. While they drank, I munched on fruit, finding no alcohol the best solution for my body, which I never really enjoyed anyway… and, as a bonus I rarely needed to visit the toilet!
THE NEXT DAY, I accompanied Rory to the Woy Woy Courthouse—a location I didn’t know of before meeting Rory, even after living in Woy Woy since the age of two. I was now learning about the ‘other’ side of life and my eyes were opening to the seriousness of the law.
Having me there helped Rory’s circumstance to some degree, as I was living proof of his ability to function when he went DUI on New Year’s Eve. Not many people in my situation would put themselves at risk and I told the court this. The judge gestured me forward when he saw my enthusiastic nods while Rory’s representative spoke about his case. ‘You seem to want to say something’, he said, and I reiterated the night’s events and the unnecessary mistreatment from the police by means of immediately assuming lies; wanting to leave me in the car while Rory went to the station; having me sit in the small backseat of the paddy wagon unsupported, with my wheelchair rolling unlocked in the caged area. Adding, how I wished we had America’s ‘walk-a-straight-line’ regulation because Rory wouldn’t have missed a beat.
The judge grew very interested when I mentioned writing an autobiography. He understood this proceeding would be in it, and then spoke about two physically-challenged people he’d met in England who had written a book called Dancing on the Inside, recommending I find it. I was thrilled with his suggestion! Rory was instructed to attend a ‘Roads and Traffic’ programme and issued a later court date.
OUR FIFTH MONTH ANNIVERSARY was later that week. It felt as if Rory and I were growing closer. Even though I didn’t believe it could have been possible, I was now beginning to feel I’d never known such a love! I thanked the Universe for this blessing. Rory showed me love’s depth of feeling with infectious enthusiasm. I had never been with someone so relationship-y; his initial devotion to making us work was endearing. I had thought our friendship was for him to avoid loneliness and to heal from broken marriages. Over the months he tried to show me his love, putting his heart into doing whatever it took to help us work…
Except for giving up alcohol. Alcohol and cigarettes were a great hindrance to my mind and heart, creating an almost impenetrable obstacle to our relationship. Rory seemed to be reducing his heavy ciggy intake, and he had done an about turn with alcohol only drinking with me on special occasions, trying to relax his attitude when on it. To my relief he became more bending when he drank, as I could only briefly communicate with know-it-alls who already knew all they wished to know, and were the last people I wished to learn from.
So, my heart softened incredibly over Rory, and I was beginning to adore him. He said he adored me. It’s an incredible feeling when adoration goes both ways. Although ‘adoration’ denoted probable near impermanence, I cherished us immeasurably and suddenly couldn’t imagine life without him! Good timing, as he soon moved in with Mum, Nan and me for three weeks until a nearby cabin became available.
* * *
Throughout the next 13 pages of this chapter
Rory reverts to old ways.
Bryce Courtenay gifts, endorsement, and motivational speaking.
Reconnection healing sessions.
London July 7.
Continual struggles with Rory and spiritual insights.
Contact with my cousin, Liz and message to my Nanna beyond.
Physical and spiritual distractions from relationship difficulties: Ramtha the Enlightened One, and Cory and his wife visit!
Disappointment at Coast Festival and poems.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Health professional, Neil suffers fatal heart attack. Meet cricketer Steve Waugh at funeral ~ offers help with his publisher.
Colourful yet daunting holiday festivities.
(Photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Twenty-Three (2004 ~ 33 years)
Many Blessings and Self-Inflicted Confusion
‘It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.’
Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)
I continued thinking about my non-exist love affair, even though this felt self-indulgent when so much atrocity was happening in the world. Iraq. Bali. Burma. Sudan. Russia. Tibet. The list went on... I felt small and insignificant, and rightly so. My compassion grew when I focused on the wider world… able to put things into perspective. But it didn’t stop outlandish thoughts of a possible union with Alan running through my mind, creating feelings in my heart that caused it to break again and again.
Happily, my career really started and my attention was diverted.
My first major event was the motivational talk at Post School Options on January 15. Mum and Dad accompanied me to Wyong, 30 minutes away by car. I wasn’t nervous as expected because it was a new experience, and a short meditation the afternoon before helped immensely. Prior to the meditation, I had begun to feel nervous while I’d been preparing a lesson plan, collecting quotes, and fashioning an excerpt from Alan Clements’ book – Instinct for Freedom, Finding Liberation through Living, to suit the context of the meeting. Tammie had advised me that she and the Post School Options staff needed motivating out of bouts of complacency… due to the nature of working with intellectually-challenged teenagers and adults.
I practiced the meditation technique I learnt at vipassana because it had become a part of me. The tools were a part of me all the time: my breath and the ever-changing sensations of my body! So I meditated to harness my energy that was beginning to vibrate in excited overdrive. After observing my breath for a time and gaining some control of my sporadic thoughts, I was able to concentrate on my body’s heightened vibrations and merge with them, in a free-flowing, high-vibratory dance. This act allowed me to gain perspective of the coming appointment, because afterwards I didn’t feel nervous again, feeling grounded instead.
I expected to experience some anxiety in the morning; however, everything felt like a wonderful process I was blessed to be involved in, particularly because Mum and Dad were also sharing it with me. As we drove, I clapped my hands three times and clasped them, testing the action, planning to ask the adults to do it in class before we commenced the meditation. Clapping hands and then rubbing them, is a good way to detect vibrations constantly vibrating on the skin.
We arrived in Wyong and Dad pushed my chair up a hill to the premises, Mum walking to our side. A welcome breeze fanned our faces before we entered the building which was a great relief to me as the day was overcast and muggy. Toilet was the first stop, and then we moved to the adjoining building where the talk was being held to meet the Post School Options staff.
Mum saw the room first and said,
‘Oh Suzie, you had better take a deep breath’.
I didn’t feel the need but understood her concern when Dad guided my chair through a door into a small room full of people. Approximately 30 were already seated, positioning chairs to establish a clear view. Mum and Dad sat to each side of me and I shifted my wheelchair towards everyone, put on my brakes, and asked, ‘Are we waiting for Tammie?’ Tammie popped her head from behind a row of people saying, ‘I’m here’ and I realised the talk was to begin without an introduction of any kind.
This wasn’t a problem. I introduced Mum, Dad, and myself, and thanked Tammie for inviting me to speak at Post School Options. I gave a brief description of my life, an account of my first neurological hiccup and the wealth of lessons my disability had brought. I explained that I saw my problem as a great blessing, one that drove me to slow down, put matters into perspective, and experience qualities of life that mattered most—tolerance, patience, understanding, caring, compassion, love, and insight. I shared my gratitude for the love of family and friends, and my awe of the love freely given to me by strangers. ‘It often brings the best out in others,’ I told them, as people are very willing to offer assistance, seeming to be delighted to help…I felt that their willingness showed that we are here for each other as we move through life, and spoke brightly about compassion being a powerful emotion and action the key to our happiness. ‘We must give to live’.
After further sharing, I handed out the excerpt from Alan’s book and read aloud as everyone followed along. The passage focused on how to uplift our existence and help others do the same: ‘A revolution of the spirit begins by first learning how to liberate our own minds from fear, apathy, and ignorance.’ Every relationship is a vehicle to awaken the love the world desperately needs.
‘The first, and most difficult, is liberation through world relationships. By engaging in relationships, we discover ourselves, and by serving the freedom of others, one frees oneself. This style, the liberating blend of intuitive discernment, creative compassion, and basic goodness – counters the habit of self-centred fixation. And self-centred fixation is the root cause of greed, fear, anger, and all other forms of suffering.’
The piece held many other pearls of wisdom, and I recommended the entire book to everyone.
Following, I asked everyone to clap their hands three times and join me in meditation. The majority had never meditated and it was a great privilege to guide the meditation for approximately five minutes. Many people seemed refreshed on opening their eyes and said they enjoyed the experience. We briefly discussed the connection between our body and mind, and contemplated our intrinsic position in nature. I gave a short explanation of what vipassana meditation did for me; particularly the liberation I felt on realising with my entire mind and body that everything was impermanent and so was my dis-ease. I briefly discussed my autobiography; read Come fly with Me for the anti-bias/anti-discriminatory messages; and answered questions. The meeting took over an hour and a half, and I was delighted to be a part of it. I thanked everyone for the fantastic opportunity and received many goodbye hugs.
Next day, I sent Alan an email about this and in the midst of describing, I said, ‘I would love to be speaking with you in person about all this’. The next day he wrote, ‘We’ll soon have ample time to speak in person. I too look forward to it. You’re an inspiration’.
I looked very forward to that soon and having ample time to speak in person …
IN MID-FEBRUARY, I returned to Umina Public School to talk with all year 3 to year 6 classes in seven sessions, concluding the final five in April/May. It was another huge privilege! Visiting the school with Dad was also an incredible honour. Mum escorted me on one of the days and I was blessed again to perform such a loving duty with my parents. They watched in amazement at the wonderful interplay with the children, and I felt their love and joy.
After reading Come fly with Me during these talks, I would ask the children to find a position on the floor to lay or sit and close their eyes. When settled, I’d perform a guided meditation exercise, taking them through some of the workings of the body and sensations on the body. Then I’d ask them to choose a bird, and as a bird, we would fly through the changing seasons. It was a refreshing activity and a first time meditating for many.
After meditation, I would read my second story Playing in Space, and several children said it was their favourite, inspiring me to write more. Without even realising, the children provided brilliant feedback, suggesting destinations for future adventures and presenting good questions about my physical problem. I explained the circumstance of my wheelchair confinement so positively that one boy said: ‘I wish I had a wheelchair’, referring to the tricks he could perform rather than the prospect of being physically-challenged.
To conclude the session, I’d read my favourite poem I’m exactly like you (written in 2000) and others if time permitted. Often, children would surround me when the class ended asking individual questions, expressing their heart or shyness, and most of them gave me big cuddles when I asked. The cuddles were another blessing because Miss Darmody, the librarian who organised my visits and schedule, sadly told me that school policy no longer allowed children to be touched at all, even when they needed loving contact.
A communication channel was established from these classes. The children sent me letters suggesting story ideas and expressing their love through colourful poetry or prose and I posted an individual reply to each. I felt like Santa Claus when I opened the first envelope full of letters and promptly set about answering!
* * *
Alan hired a tour manager for this year’s Australian trip and I wasn’t needed as his Sydney contact person. I was a little disappointed but also grateful the amount of work was not pinned on me. Still inclined to assist, I emailed Alan’s schedule and details to my contacts from last year; including radio stations – commercial and community, meditation, and yoga centres, politicians, public figures, healing centres etc. Approximately seven lists were complied and sent to his tour manager, Chris, and we built a lovely rapport.
Alan stayed in contact with me during the lead up to his visit and I was convinced a strong friendship was growing between us. Particularly strong, since I was involved in the finer details of coordinating keys to his friend’s flat for his arrival in Sydney. He was very grateful and told me to feel free to call him anytime at his friend’s apartment.
Mum called the apartment a few times on the day he arrived to welcome him. I didn’t want her to disturb him and was embarrassed, but there was no need. He did not answer, so she left messages. Assuming he was resting or meditating, I anticipated seeing him that night. His first talk commenced early evening and I was going along, due to a generous friend’s offer to drive an hour from Sydney to pick me up, drive me to Sydney, attend the talk, drive me home, and then return to Sydney himself.
The journey down to Sydney in Dave’s v8 motorcar was chatty and fast. In no time we were looking for a car park. I smoked a joint before we arrived, to ensure my limbs stayed supple in the chair for the duration of the talk, and to settle my nerves before seeing Alan. From there, Dave wheeled me along the charming east Sydney streets, until we came to the Yoga Centre, holding his talk.
We had been waiting out the front for Yolanda only a few minutes before Alan emerged from the building. He smiled a beautiful smile and said, ‘I knew I came down here for a reason’. I beamed a smile in return and was greatly surprised to receive a cuddle and a brief kiss on the lips. Although taken aback, my main concern was the possible taste of marijuana on my lips. Alan didn’t seem to notice; he was bursting with vibrancy and I didn’t know how to take him. He was serious and reticent the last time I saw him… such was his heartache over Aung San Suu Kyi and the situation in Burma.
Because of these thoughts whirling in my mind, I wasn’t really a part of Alan and Dave’s conversation, and merely enjoyed the good vibes around me. I imagined other opportunities to talk with Alan would happen. Soon, Yolanda walked up the hill to greet us, warmly received by Alan. ‘It seems like only yesterday’ he said, as she went on his 2001 retreat in Bryon Bay. The energy was great between the four of us and when Alan’s other friends arrived, Dave, Yolanda, and I made our way into the building. The talk was upstairs and Dave needed to lift me, and then the wheelchair, to the first floor. In 1999, Dave had carried me up many steps into the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) member’s stand to watch the Sydney Swans with Dad. Not an easy feat; he considered this short distance incomparable exertion.
Dave placed me on a plastic chair in the room assigned to the talk and I struggled to transfer into my wheelchair so we could move freely about until the talk commenced. It was hot and stuffy on the top floor, and after many attempts, I accepted David’s offer to lift me in. Healthy men are miracles workers due to their strength, and we were quickly on the move again …
* * *
Throughout the next 29 pages of this chapter:
Down about my lack of physical independence: unable to get to two-day Dharma retreat and meet up with Alan following.
‘Spiritually Incorrect’ ~ Alan’s last Sydney event.
Mum and I drive to Byron Bay for four-day Dharma retreat: generous gift from Alan for last year’s work ~ Save Burma Save Aung San Suu Kyi tour!
Before it commenced: stayed at Sarah’s (restless), and then the Byron Bay Wheels Resort (tumultuous)…
Truth discussions and self-inflicted confusion at retreat.
Following, Thea’s ground-level home my sanctuary.
‘Spiritually Incorrect’ in Byron.
Cuddles with Ammachi ~ and a family blessing!
Blessings continue: Medicine Buddha Empowerment event and His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche.
Continue wishing for the magnanimous companion I’m meant to meet, hoping he is within physical reach…
Write letter to Alan regarding situation at home and advice on how to write honestly without hurting people’s feelings… his reply (in part):
“Suzie, if there is pure intention there is no higher good than truth. If your writing is grounded in it, you provide a gift to others. Let nothing distract you from truth. Love, Alan”
MS alternative treatments meeting: learn about Atlas Orthogonal (AO)… Revisit drastic horse fall on my neck when I was 11… commence AO: chiropractic ~ long drives south with Dad for treatment.
Despite huge physical improvement: commence receiving weekday personal care for an hour.
Meet Bryce Courtenay at a Children’s Literature Festival at Ourimbah Campus: offers to help me.
Experience suffering to know compassion more than I ever imagined possible on meeting Rory, David’s workmate.
An unknowable force/attraction pulls us together…. Rory goes DUI with me beside him on New Year’s Eve…
(Beautiful photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Twenty-Two (2003 ~ 32 years)
Love Grows Within and Without
‘To be yourself requires extraordinary intelligence. You are blessed with that intelligence; nobody need give it to you; nobody can take it away from you. He who lets that express itself in its own way is a 'Natural Man'.’ ~ U. G. Krishnamurti
By 2003 I became serious about improving my health and sought a new course of bio-quantum homeopathy drops made specifically to one’s saliva. Peter Fraser—the homeopath I heard about at the Ammachi retreat last year—had kindly sent me trial drops on examining my saliva, which made a subtle difference. My symptoms slowly worsened after using them, but my hands and arms felt remarkably stronger and lighter, so I sent another saliva swab in the mail and Peter sent me a new course of herbal drops.
I took them away with me to Byron Bay on a holiday Sarah gave me as a birthday gift. Her generous gift reached the skies when we flew in a small plane to Ballina Airport. Mum trusted me going away with Sarah; her reputation of being physically sturdy convinced everyone she’d manage. She did more than manage!
Signs that we may have bitten off more than we could manage showed in the car on the way to Sydney. Sarah and Paul drove up from Sydney to get me, and I chose to sit in the backseat on the return journey wishing to readopt sitting comfortably anywhere in a car. Nevertheless, without being as firmly supported as one is when sitting in the front seat and without my arm slightly hanging out the window to secure me for a smoother ride around corners, I became carsick half way there and hurriedly vomited into a dog’s dish conveniently kept under the backseat for Sarah’s dogs. We immediately pulled over and happily there was a man hosing plants on the highway roadside who lent us the hose, and then I transferred into the front seat compliments of Paul’s strong muscles lifting me in. My habit of travelling in the front seat over the past few years made more sense than ever.
I felt fine for rest of the afternoon and night with Sarah and friends seating comfortably on the couch, but had a cold by morning. I used many tissues, coughed all day and night, and the next morning we left for the airport. On the plane, I felt slightly sick again, incubated by cold air-conditioning and air-sockets blowing directly on me, which was nice at the time.
The plane arrived at Ballina airport an hour and a half later, and the dismount was as colourful as boarding had been in Sydney. Crane, machines, and devices took the place of strong men, concerned about compensation if something went wrong carrying a passenger. Although they didn’t say this, I understood the reason, and appreciated the fun and friendliness of my helpers!
Outside the airport a friendly taxi-man smiled at me said, ‘It’s going to rain. The cows are sitting in the centre of the paddock’, While Sarah went to collect our hire-car, I delighted at the sight of cows sitting in the middle of a paddock next to an airport, and at the warm and open people living up to their laid-back reputation! Low clouds heightened the muggy climate and the thrill of being somewhere new outweighed my brewing sickness.
We were staying at the Byron Bay Rainforest Resort also known as the wheelchair friendly Byron Bay Wheels Resort, with a pool for wheelchair access. We didn’t take advantage of the pool when we arrived, but Sarah made the rooms comfortable and we went into Byron for a food shop and drive. Originally, we were to share a one-room cabin, but Sarah decided to upgrade and now a kitchen and bathroom separated two rooms! More than a wise move!
Driving through Byron was as if stepping back in time and the folks hoped to keep it that way by disallowing fast food chains into the area, for example. A population increase caused some locals to complain, but they still smiled and greeted people in a friendly relaxed, life-is-good fashion!
Bryon Bay, northern New South Wales, is a hip and happening place to celebrate summer! People from diverse lifestyles, dress colourfully and walk the streets unhurried, happy-go-lucky, in Australia’s carefree capital. The beaches are gorgeous, the headlands dramatic, and the country side, a glorious green. I drank in my new surroundings and chatted to people while Sarah purchased food and necessities in the supermarket. We then drove around the town and back to our resort, in a rainforest area of the bay.
The resort was a little paradise, trees everywhere, dotted with colourful birds singing their song. We were upmarket camping amid beautiful nature, sitting in a screened outdoor area adjoining our rooms, playing music video on cable. I was in heaven, until the plastic outdoor chair I’d been sitting on for hours became uncomfortable, and the only other seat was my bed. This place was very wheelchair friendly—it was the only secure seat in the hut, unless I was sitting on the bed! It didn’t matter, I was so grateful to be there and my discomfort eased as I worked on Sarah’s laptop absorbing the tropical atmosphere! Aromas soon permeated the scene from Sarah’s cooking, following which we drank white wine and stayed amongst the night time air talking of many things.
The next day we went for a roll in my wheelchair. While we had been eating breakfast in our outdoor screened area, the cute groundsman at the resort stopped to chat with us and encouraged us to walk a ‘short’ distance to the beach to see great views. But his suggestion quickly lost appeal as Sarah grew hot and tired pushing the chair a very long distance in denim jeans, and the destination brought us no joy, as we couldn’t get near the beach because of sandy access tracks and rubber wheels. Sarah insisted she could piggyback me, but I couldn’t help her help me if we fell.
We returned to the resort from the now burning sun, and once home, I rested in bed while Sarah swam and sunbaked by the pool, recuperating. My little sickness was re-emerging, but that wasn’t going to hinder me having the massage and facial Sarah had also bought as a gift for my birthday! We stayed in that night, and the next morning we received a Bowen Technique treatment, which is holistic system of healing, and another gift from amazing Sarah!
After the Bowen healing, we went into Byron and met with Jaimini—the beautiful man I met at the Ammachi Retreat! Sitting in the sun at a cool café, smiling into his smiling face and sharing the smiles and loving energy with Sarah was pure joy. We spoke of the love of women, and how the nurturing mother in all of us has the ability to transform the world! We spoke of Amma and her astounding transcendent love, and of Jaimini’s recent time at Ammachi’s actual ashram in Kerala, India. We arranged to meet again at the Byron Bay Beach Hotel on our last night.
One evening stood between now and then, and Sarah wanted to go out to dinner. A natural wish when on holiday, except what I needed was another night in, but I made the effort for Sarah… so grateful for her birthday gifts to me! After a visit to the Byron Bay Lighthouse at the eastern most point of Australia, we went home and had another rest before we drove through the Byron Bay countryside, to see its beauty.
The scenery was stunning; however, I was nauseous driving along the winding hillsides. I concealed this as best as possible from Sarah as it was her holiday too and I couldn’t ruin it because of a little sickness. Even so, at the restaurant, I cried in surrender of my sickly state. After a nourishing, protein-packed bowl of miso soup, I felt better and we called Mum. By then, my sadness and sickness were imperceptible, and Mum was a comforting angel, unaware of how much I needed her!
Bed that night was a repeat of the previous nights, except worse. Firstly, I finally had the vomit that had been haunting me for the last 24 hours into a plastic waste bag beside my bed, and later in the night, my body overheated with extreme night-sweats. I attempted hazardous movements removing my singlet top, pushing it downwards, which was silly because my legs wouldn’t bend, and I couldn’t sit up. My sudden exasperation and efforts caused me to fall off the bed, landing wedged between the bed and bedside table in a banana spear-like position.
There was nowhere to go; I tried wiggling out, but to no gain. All I could do was call, ‘Sarah, Sarah’!
She heard and came quickly from her bedroom.
‘Oh honey.’ She was so sympathetic and could see I was crying, effortlessly lifted me back onto the bed.
‘Is that all from you?’ Sarah questioned, remarking on my wet sheets.
‘Yes, I’m so hot!’ Alas, we didn’t put the fan on for fear of me catching a chill.
I was going through a major purification process, I told myself. Experiencing a type of karmic cleansing, triggered perhaps by this holiday near the northern NSW Mountains where I might move to one day. So I hoped I was clearing out for what Shastri said was to come.
I felt better on waking the next morning and took my second swim in the wheelchair friendly pool. A woman who broke her spine in a motorbike accident years earlier had designed the pool and transformed a sun-bed into a waterproof wheelchair using bicycle wheels. I took advantage of this having not been in a swimming pool for years.
The buoyancy of water opposed to gravity was like entering another world, and this world supported unmoving legs and encouraged upper body activity! We swam the length of the pool and around its edges. I guided myself along the railings and as my confidence grew, I bounced up and down in the middle of the pool to maintain a standing position, resting at the sitting areas to prolong energy! All up, I took three swims during the holiday due to the pool’s magnificent accessibility, regardless of my strange sickness. I thanked the drops for their protective properties against the muggy climate, and blamed the influenza injection I had late last year for causing my first ever flu.
That night we met Jaimini as planned, and again I delighted at his effervescent presence. He told us he was the local groover, which became increasingly obvious as the night went by seeing him dancing so upbeat—I wished I could have danced with him…his heightened energy at 62 years was amazing! Everyone smiled seeing him celebrate life and love! His face radiated love for all; his ecstasy was infectious! We were fortunate to know him.
We stayed to the end of Norman Jay—a cool English disk jockey, and dropped Jamini home on our way home. It didn’t take long for me to go to the bathroom and get out of the wheelchair and into bed. Midway through the night, my fever increased and for the third night running, I had great difficulty trying to go to the toilet into the saucepan on the floor bedside my bed. Because of the fever, my legs were so stiff, they wouldn’t bend, and it was a blessing cork tiling was underneath me instead of carpet, as I wee-ed lying on my belly. The cork tiling was good for such accidents, but not good for pressing my knees down heavily for the necessary push to heave myself back onto the bed. After four nights, my kneeswere so sore and sensitive, and the bed was becoming harder for my troubled body to climb up onto.
After many attempts trying to do the impossible without strength, I called, ‘Sarah, Sarah’, to the rescue again. She was so strong and managed this task as if it was simple…
‘Sarah I feel so sick and helpless,’ I uttered to her and we knew the fan was necessary, because the heat and the fever were causing me almost complete debilitation.
The final morning came for us to go home, but getting there was another obstacle. I sat beside a window on the sunny side of the small plane, cooking my sickly state. Although the view was superb, I eventually swapped seats with Sarah… The cooler location didn’t bring me much more relief; but, a quick little, no-fuss vomit into an aeroplane bag did the trick.
Sarah continued to be empathetic with me during the long and difficult process home. At Sydney airstrip, the crane for the special wheelchair was delayed in reaching our plane, and once outside the airport, we had trouble fitting into a taxi with my wheelchair and Sarah’s two-in-one bag! We were finally successful and found an Indian driver who spoke of colourful India, and at last, we reached Sarah’s house. Paul greeted us, and gave me a piggyback ride all the way into the house and onto the lounge. I was deeply grateful for Paul’s strength in carrying me, and the comfort of the lounge! The situation seemed to be improving.
At bedtime, my illness rose again. Sarah set up the sofa lounge for me as she did nights before, but this time sleeping in it would have been hazardous. After getting out off the sofa for my final loo stop in the potty before sleeping, I couldn’t bend my legs again, and couldn’t do a wee. My fever was too high to release any liquids and I had no strength to pull myself back into bed.
‘Sarah, can I sleep on the floor?’ I pleaded.
‘Of course,’ she said, and set about packing up the sofa lounge, placing lounge pillows on the wooden floorboards.
‘No Sarah, I need to sleep on the floor. I don’t want to ruin the cushions from your beautiful lounge!’ Sarah wouldn’t hear of this and proceeded to make life as comfortable as possible for me.
By now, I was wearing pads. An accident was waiting to happen, and no amount of pounding on my abdomen would make me wee safely and easily. Sarah became worried at my frenzied efforts beating my belly and when I was lying down unsuccessful and exhausted, she offered me a Panadol.
‘I forgot Panadol’s even existed, oh yes please Sarah!’
Sleep started to come soon after I took the substance, as did my need to wee. I didn’t know what to do. I had no strength to heave myself off the cushions, onto my knees, and then on the potty. I called Sarah again. She was an angel—giving me towels and changing my pads, without the slightest sigh of effort or frustration. Hours later it happened again, but this time I didn’t need to disturb Sarah; towels are wonderful absorbers.
Paul came home during the night and with a big, cheery smile he said, ‘Have you been pissing yourself all night, have ya?’ I affirmed ‘yes’ with a giggle, happy as ever Paul had such a wonderfully light-hearted and down-to-earth personality! No wonder I used to love dancing with him!
Next morning Sarah took me home to the place I needed more than ever! Mum took one look at me and sensed what I’d endured. She set me up on the couch and nursed me back to health, which took two days. In my bed, the fever broke, and I woke with wet sheets two nights running. I vowed never to let another flu injection come near me. And, it wasn’t out of my system yet…
* * *
Throughout the next 17.5 pages of this chapter:
Met Nigerian man on the net: living in Kuwait, bombed daily by scud missiles.
MRI scan to participate in national survey.
Sought guidance: met health practitioner, Neil… goodwill, misguidance, and Dad pays a huge fee.
World thought luminary Alan Clements, and Burma’s Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
After becoming an advocate raising awareness for Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma, become Sydney promoter for the Free Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma Tour.
Affection for Alan (living in Canada) grew in the process… could he be the holy man.
Bizarre bath incident.
Write a no-ending, no-goodbye letter to Jia given only weeks to live!!!
Sydney events for Free Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma Tour a success in attendance spiritually…
First presentation with school children… wrote: Come Fly with Me… leading to other school and Tafe visits!
(Powerful photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Twenty-One (2002 ~ 31 years)
Spiritual Reprieves along the Road of Tough Love
'It’s true that one cannot always be positive. At such times one may retire from one’s associates. But as you evolve so your contact becomes more powerful than the influence of the other person. Therefore the other person receives more benefit from you, while the harm you receive is less. If by receiving a little harm you are able to do more good to the other person, it is just as well. It is only a matter of self-discipline, and love can conquer all things. In every person, however wicked, there is a good string somewhere; you must know where to find it. If one always thought about it, one could always touch the best point of the other person and overlook the other points. Nevertheless, it is a struggle.’
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Zane was a mysterious man, battered and torn by life. When I came to know his mind a little, I could perceive heavy psychological scars that marred the happier disposition he normally presented to the world. I saw him change from a positive to a negative mindset in seconds whenever he discussed his past relationships, especially involving Susie—the mother of his beautiful seven-year-old daughter, Paige. We shared the same name, so I’d hear it in rotating tones of displeasure and pleasure. It wasn’t long before our names did feel the same.
I was still an idealist and hoped to help Susie and Zane reunite. I tried this through listening to him, giving understanding, and offering him alternatives to the way he saw their situation. My relationship with Zane commenced openly… he was aware of the Shastri predictions from when we’d first met. I felt comfortable helping him explore new and healthier avenues of thought, ones that could be fruitful and beneficial to all concerned… especially for little Paige.
Exploration into these fields of thought didn’t seem to interest him, and in blind faith—similar to what I had held for Ben, I hoped he’d grow interested in the way someone close to him saw and interacted with life despite having a physical disadvantage. Not wanting to deter his potential interest, I chose not to talk about metaphysical matters and spiritual stuff much … although I read Rumi poems to him every so often! Like these:
King, SAINT, thief, madman—
Love has grabbed everyone by the neck
And drags us to God in secret ways….
How could I have ever guessed
That God, too, desired us?
We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
might worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.
All simple fun stuff, yet with deep meanings that helped me throw care to the wind. He seemed to enjoy hearing such words, but their beauty didn’t touch the flower of his heart.
We would talk about day-to-day issues, and I did a lot of listening about his past relationships, highly-charged with emotional pain. He portrayed himself as the victim, and was unable to take responsibility for his part… seemingly trapped in the emotionally metaphoric ‘dark age’.
With good intentions, I hoped to penetrate some of those deeper, darker crevices. I don’t know why I felt capable of helping him or why I felt so inclined—he didn’t ask me for help, either did Harry or Ben. Maybe it was because of my slow-moving problem…I wasn’t going anywhere quickly and had the time to spend time with people, always grateful for their physical help…
Zane reflected brightness and light at first, especially through his huge smiles, warm hugs, and dark-brown eyes. It was wonderful being in his arms; our hearts shone happily through the experience. A meeting of the minds was secondary to the intensity of those physical, emotional feelings; our heart charkas were in full swing for a while. I was ready to feel love on every level. But, the topsy-turvy emotion of this world still reigned supreme for Zane, a world from which I also wasn’t free … and he proves a great teacher to me.
The lesson reveals itself quickly—for a meeting of the minds is vital, and I describe the following interaction to show the bizarre ways we went to try to find common ground…
AUSTRALIA’S DAY, January 26, we had our first break up. I’d stayed the night at Zane’s and we spent the day at the Sport’s bar adjoining Dad’s TAB. This was Zane’s favourite sort of outing, having a love of gambling on horses from way back.
The bonus for me was watching Dad while he worked. Even though he never needed to say anything to me, the love in his eyes said it all… sometimes he’d say, ‘You’re marvellous’, for being happy even when unable to walk. I was happy to be out—often forgetting I had a problem, simply enjoying Zane’s company and friends, sharing in laughter and jokes.
But, that boat was about to rock…
Zane intervened on a conversation I was having with a man who had asked why I was a vegetarian. Although I had strong opinions about the suffering of animals, the consequences of their suffering, and the make up of the human body, I chose not to talk about them, and simply explained that vegetables and fruits have less senses than animals, and reproduce on mass plentifully and quickly after picking. (As described in books such as The Holy Science by Sri Yukteswar - One animal life, takes incomparably longer to produce than fruits and vegetables…its life comprises blood and bones, together with its own fate.) Although I learnt this from sources of philosophical influence, Zane interjected, ‘Suzie’s right, Suzie’s always right’. I appeared to take it playfully, but his sudden forthrightness of the arrogant kind worried me. He seemed to be getting me ‘wrong’.
Zane and I had discussed the reasoning behind my chosen diet, and naturally, I didn’t expect him to stop eating meat. I had assumed he’d respect my choice, even if it was foreign to him. Alas, after we happily bid Dad and crew goodbye, we clashed as we drove along the glorious Ettalong Beach seashore.
I was looking at the water as we drove along, enjoying the tranquillity and expressing delight, when we came across a view seen countless times…. fishermen on the shoreline. Without thinking, and in subliminal reaction to a comment he had made in the club about feeding my guinea pigs to his greyhound, I called, ‘Don’t do it’ out the window loud enough for only Zane to hear. He reacted with contempt and said fishing was a family thing, in which children loved being involved. I affirmed that for me the ordeal was horrid to witness as a child, particularly the ‘gutting’ episode—disbelieving it was happening before my eyes. I toughened as time went by, taught by society that this was the norm… necessary, a sport, and one of the most peaceful practices to perform in life…
‘The problem with you Suzie is that you’re not real, I’m a realist!’ Realising he was uncommonly upset, I apologised and said I thought I could say anything around him. He reaffirmed I could and then spoke adamantly about the food chain, explaining with reproach that animals were here for us to eat.
I suddenly realised he was deeply attached to these views, and gently said, ‘These are the things that will eventually move us apart’.
‘That’s okay, I’ll cop it on the chin when the time comes,’ he said initially … but moments later, he banged his hands on the steering wheel, ‘Stuff it, that’s it, I’m taking you home and ending it now’. Lost for words, I looked at him in disbelief. He continued, ‘You’re always trying to end our relationship and I’m sick of it’. Hesitantly, I had said a couple of times (including that morning) that a relationship doesn’t really exist if two people can’t communicate matters, even the painful ones. I had said this in a matter-of-fact yet gentle way, in response to Zane not wishing to listen to me opening up about an issue from my past (regarding Jia and my cousin Liz).
Driving onwards, hearing more from Zane about how ‘real’ people thought, I said lightly, ‘Let’s just agree to disagree’. He agreed and seemed to calm, so I suggested driving to the beach, (near home), to talk for a few minutes. On pulling up at the beach car park, friction almost immediately reoccurred between us trying to reach peaceful ground, and with it, he reversed the car exclaiming to a woman nearby, ‘Yeah, you know what it’s like!’ In further disbelief and instant embarrassment—thankful she didn’t see me, I remained silent and listened as Zane went to the tune of, ‘The problem with you is you’re always right, no matter what, Suzie’s always right’ all the way home, not looking at me as he spoke.
He didn’t hear me saying, ‘There’s no right or wrong, there is no judgment’, and couldn’t hear it under the top of his voice or in the pits of irrational anger. His mind was barren to this thought. When we pulled into my driveway, he said, ‘I’m putting you and your things in the house and leaving’. After getting the wheelchair and bags, he came to my door and said, ‘You’re a hypocrite anyway,—I bet you’d eat meat if you were in the mood’. Speechless at where all this was coming from, he pushed me across the lawn saying over my shoulder, ‘Nobody is like you in this world, you’d better take a good look at yourself’.
I sighed and embraced the insightful opportunity to say, ‘Okay if I need to then you must do also’.
‘I knew you’d say that!’ he retorted.
Nanna was in the side garden and she called a happy hello when she saw us. I replied with a smile that grew wider when she said, ‘Paul telephoned. He’ll call you again later’. The sound of a friend’s name at such a time is blissful!
He wheeled me through the lounge room to the toilet saying, ‘Even though this has happened I’m not you’re enemy’.
‘Of course, there are no enemies,’ I softly answered. Adding, ‘Oh well, I guess you’ll know me when you read my book’.
‘This doesn’t mean I hate ya,’ he said as I moved from my chair to hold onto the toilet door, and then before closing the door I turned to bid him a sad goodbye.
I remained sitting for sometime, dumbfounded and feeling surreal. I cried… this was the strangest incident I’d ever experienced in a relationship. Not knowing or believing Zane would actually leave on those terms, I opened the toilet door in hope of a peaceful close. He had gone, without leaving my walker outside the door. Just then, Nanna came in from the garden, ‘Suzie, where’s Zane gone? And he’s left you without your walker!’ Sadly, I told her we had broken up after I said something that upset him about fishing …‘it was my ignorance Nan, speaking of such to Zane, who loves fishing.’ Nan was baffled. She had just waved off what looked to be a merry Zane, and wondered how such an issue could cause careless behaviour—leaving me unhappy and without my walker. Nanna had never seen me cry over a guy, she was so compassionate; she understood my bewilderment, and saw my strength.
Alone, I rang Zane’s mobile. He didn’t answer, so I left a message, apologising for upsetting him over the fish, and wishing him peace and love in the future. I thought he’d call that evening or the next day, but Zane was different to anyone I’d ever known.
Because Mum was visiting Tom, what then could have been a lonely night with these thoughts wasn’t. A vibrant, John Archer soon knocked on the door, and then Ben. We shared a lovely few hours and after John left, Ben showed me poems and artwork given to him from a woman. He told me about their love energy, and then told me of another girl he was also interested in. I didn’t discuss Zane with Ben; the memory of him was already like something out of a bizarre movie, just over...
* * *
Throughout the next 22.5 pages of this chapter:
Retreat to Sarah’s – attend great party.
Reconnect with Zane: ‘Please let me love you until you’re ready to fly away. I’ll let you go when you’re ready’.
Weeks later: break with Zane again.
Attend Babaji Benefit Indian Cultural Night with Dad.
Attend Ammachi long-weekend retreat with Mum.
On and off with Zane again.
Saw His Holiness the Fourteen Dalai Lama - free public talk on Universal Responsibility and Happiness in Sydney.
MS appointment for potential cure/treatment.
The forbidden medicine now not so forbidden. Medicinal marijuana!
Sydney Swans with Dad, Dave, and Zane… we give it one more go…
Meet my pen pal friend from jail.
Bitten by a dog.
(Glorious photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Twenty (2001 ~ 30 years)
Revisiting the Past, Spiritual Blasts, and the Magnetic Pull of Opposites
‘The soul rejoices in the comforts experienced by the external self, yet man becomes so engrossed in them that the soul’s true comfort is neglected. This keeps man dissatisfied through all momentary comforts he may enjoy, but not understanding this he attributes the cause of his dissatisfaction to some unsatisfied desire in his life. The outlet of all earthly passions gives a momentary satisfaction, yet creates a tendency for more. In this struggle the satisfaction of the soul is overlooked by man who is constantly busied in the pursuit of his earthly enjoyment and comfort, depriving the soul of its true bliss. The true delight of the soul lies in love, harmony and beauty, the outcome of which is wisdom, calm and peace; the more constant they are the greater the satisfaction of the soul’ ~ Hazrat. I. Khan
At this time, my first boyfriend Ben and I were becoming friends again. Having visited on and off last year, he continued to visit, and as he grew more relaxed and open, unknowingly, my attraction grew for him. This wasn’t a big surprise; Gretchen gave me a reading before New Year, ‘Suzie, you might find that you might want to be with him again’. I strongly refuted her suggestion, having already experienced the pitfall of such a reunion, many times.
I went to a ‘doofer’ dance party with Ben, Yolanda, Yolanda’s boyfriend Rick and friends. An outdoor ‘doof’ party was a one-off event for me. German translation of ‘doof’ is silly, and silly is what it seemed, because of the music. I didn’t like the rave atmosphere of trippy music and ravers dancing separately—transported to a world of their own, not shared with eye contact and dancing in rhythm together. I felt this way when I was a dance party fanatic during those house-music dance party days… At this outdoor ‘rave’, although the starlit sky was our rooftop, I thought about the wildlife—the noise an intruder to their setting… The style and tempo of the music disturbed me most, giving me a headache. Obviously, it’s an acquired taste, just as house music was long ago. At these moments, I didn’t find it too bad being unable to dance!
It was also a good thing Sarah met us there, having accompanied her Israeli friend Raf - one of the party DJ’s, named Rif Raf to the party. Ben and Sarah provided me with much needed assistance and support when I needed to go to the toilet. Thinking of me, Sarah had kindly purchased a little port-a-loo before she came, and assembled it on the side of the mountain, joining sarongs between trees for privacy. This was so special, as was the way Ben and Sarah teamed up to help me accomplish this act, Ben respectfully parting when I was safely on loo. While in this quieter position, I reflected on how I couldn’t get by without friends… certainly couldn’t go out without them, particularly to places such these.
These parties, as the ones I attended long ago, were places where substance assimilation was a recreational activity exercised by many partygoers—alcohol, an added extra and rare consumption. For old time’s sake, I partook in a little substance, minus the burden of guilt, enjoying something different for a difference, but I still conjured up the fear of how would people judge me when they knew. Quickly discarding the false influence of judgment, from a comfy seat, I enjoyed the wonder of witnessing a girl moving like never before on her prosthetic limb… her mind and body expanded beyond the processes that normally caused her to limp, as well as need a cane…
It was dark to my left and a voice of laughter and joy sounding very much like Yolanda’s, flew here and there, closely followed by Rick’s voice. ‘Was that Yolanda,’ I asked, disbelieving my eyes but not my ears, as her figure moved with fluidity and grace! She was a bubble of beauty as her body moved in harmony… But the miracle of it was too transient to grasp. Our minds much more capable than we can imagine… I was seeing this firsthand!
After leaving the party, Ben and I pulled over a kilometre along the dirt track to wait in the peace of the crisp morning, while Yolanda and crew manoeuvred her big purple bus out of the party, cramped with cars. The wait gave Ben the chance to say, ‘You’d like me to do vipassana wouldn’t you?’
Surprised, I answered, ‘Only if you want too! But, of course, I’d love you to. It’s so wonderful for everyone!’
The energy shifted between us and later alone at home in the ambience of my lounge room with the morning sun filtering through windows we kissed. I hoped with the realisations vipassana brings, he would be able to have an impermanent relationship with me… Impermanence being the first noble truth one acquires at vipassana. Also, he was very aware of Shastri’s prediction of the older man coming into my life.
In the heightened energy of euphoria and sleepiness, we kissed nestled in embrace… past and present fused, and we shared feelings of love in an unexplainable degree. Thirteen years had spanned our last kiss; our souls had been through so much since then. Now we were sharing sacredness in soul reunion. We had never been closer.
Inevitably, we soon discussed the future, and on the condition he understood all that was probably to come into my life, I agreed not to mention the man predicted, and we’d live day-to-day. It was a gift to be in relationship with Ben again, as I had often rebuked myself when remembering the immature thoughts, words, and sometimes actions our teenage relationship brought. Over the years, I wished I had given him good love, and now the universe was giving me an opportunity to offer healing and love to that very person, in the mature kind of way! No more need to project mental-grief or ignorantly inflict self-torment onto him, as I would have done back then. This time he’d be getting no mental-grief from me… it would be up to Ben on how he wished to deal with what life presented as we moved along in renewed relationship mode!
MY 30TH BIRTHDAY came about soon after, and I invited many friends and family to a party at the Umina Beach Surf Club. It was the first time in many years the upstairs floor of this club had been hired out for an occasion. It hadn’t been renovated in years either, but I was thrilled to be holding my party in a space that was nostalgic to me due to its incredible view of the ocean I grew up enjoying. Umina Beach was the beach I frequented as little girl with Mum and family, and visited for a swim on hot summer afternoons after school with Dad and the dogs and he’d call me his little tadpole as I swam happily in the water. Mouse and I spent much time with our dogs on the beach during summer holidays and when we were a few years old again, we spent time hanging out with boys! Then the beach became about parties that carried on well into the night and often led to house parties and barbecues back at friends’ houses…
Yes, it was a surf club of good memories and more were made during the evening with party friends galore from nearby and Sydney, past and present. Rif Raf was the DJ and he tried his best to play house music more than rave, unsuccessfully at times causing the dance floor to clear because the gathering of old-schoolers wanted familiar tunes to boogie too. I was picked up and spun around the dance floor by my brother and friends all through the night, and I found great relief sitting on my walker seat for rest intervals. When the night ended at three am, I was piggybacked down the stairs, and followed by my eternal party friend Paul, and lastly by Dad who was determined to be the last one leaving the building. My Dad—the adventurer, was soon to go trekking in Nepal, yet still without his long-awaited money!
* * *
Leon was in Sydney on business in this period, and this time, and as mentioned at the end of last chapter, we managed to meet up. Ben wasn’t comfortable with Leon’s visit. He had no need to worry, I reassured him, but he still worried our time together would end prematurely. It affected the following blessed day we shared together…
Excerpt to the Divine Consciousness from my diary:
24th April ~ AMMACHI TOMORROW!
Ben is taking me! Both of us will be blessed! Another blissful blessing! Please Dear God guide my relationship with Ben in every moment! Please don’t let heartache and pain come out of what has been a beautiful, glorious reunion that has astounded me, because it has all been so unexpected! Thank you for opening my heart to embrace him again as not only a friend, but a lover too… I can’t believe this is happening, and can’t deny the happiness and love I feel now that an honesty of emotion is allowed to flow between us, like it never has before… more powerfully than possible for us as teenagers. It is a healing time in the highest sense, and my heart is overflowing with love and joy to be able to give such precious love to him, to Ben who appreciates it more than I thought imaginable… Dear God I know this is a blessing from you, and only good will come from it, for this love is beautiful, and I know my monk man will understand, and be glad desires had been followed so that they can be fulfilled, and karma cleared… Dear God be with us always, and may the glory of you shine inside our every breath! Thank you for sending him back to me and me to him. He helps me so much it is glorious, and I give him your love. He is so humble, willing, and divine. So, gentle, soft and kind! Oh, let him know his beauty! Please let my loving Ben bring no harm!
Recently home from an Alan Clements’ retreat up north, Yolanda and Rick were free to accompany Ben and me to Ammachi. This was a new experience for them, and I hoped Yolanda would simply melt into Mother’s arms. On some level, she did, but the heightened emotions of her mind, inhibited the power of Ammachi’s loving. Her emotions were high due to difficulties she was having trying to unite home—family—boyfriend, which was a new experience because Rick was her first love/boyfriend.
Everyone’s emotions were particularly high, as Yolanda had said the wrong thing during the drive to Sydney, when she voiced surprise at Ben and me being back together. She had been away the past weeks and I hadn’t had a chance to update her. Yolanda is a no fuss, straightforward person, especially in speech, and she stated disbelief on hearing we were ‘together’. ‘I don’t believe it. Ben maybe, but Suzie, shit no!’ Her doubt coming from Shastri’s prediction of the man coming into my life, together with my long-held aspirations of this coming true.
The repercussion of Yolanda’s statement brought an instant shadow to Ben’s disposition. It was as if an energy oppressor had arrived in the car, causing Yolanda to feel wrong, Rick to think wrong, and me to know I did ‘wrong’, having not made sure I’d told Yolanda. These moments set tune for the rest of the day. Not even the sight or touch of Ammachi could overcome such energies, which was a huge shame, due to the loving-kindness, beauty, and truth permeating the blessing.
Mother must have felt the confusion surrounding me, for when I’d finished receiving my second ever Darshan (blessings), a white-worker whispered to me: ‘Mother would like you to sit next to Her’. Oh, this was a surprise and Ben kindly lifted me to sit on Ammachi’s right. Sitting in the haven of Mother’s heavenly vibrations, I had a front-row view of Yolanda and Rick’s Darshan. Tears came to my eyes for my friend who had already been through more than most of us could imagine, and now she was in the arms of sincere compassion. Ammachi and Yolanda were love in motion, except, one was aware of it, the other wasn’t. The humility of Rick’s embrace also brought a tear to me, for his intent was to give the Mother a cuddle rather than simply receive one. ‘I can’t wait to give Her a hug!’ he had said with enthusiasm and unadulterated joy, when I first told him about Amma.
Ben snuck a tiny portion of video footage as I sat in the privileged position aside Ammachi. Simply closing my eyes to absorb the loving vibrations for any length was difficult, as Ben, Yolanda, and Rick were waiting. We were going to Bondi Beach on the other side of the city for lunch, and then coming back later for Ammachi’s evening program. Not wanting to be too spiritually hungry, I gestured to Ben to collect me from where I sat whenever he was ready. I wholeheartedly appreciated his part in managing these complex movements smoothly, surely, now so accustomed to carrying me—a very awkward package. The waiting walker was our destination and once I was sitting safely, he pushed me from there…the capacity of the wheel a most marvellous invention.
Outside, and during the rest of the day, the dynamism between the four of us remained wanting. That the beautiful day could be tainted so was a real shame. We had experienced pure positive vibrations with Ammachi. Now, instead of still feeling these, the vibrations surrounding us were jammed-packed with effort and the need to ease troubled minds. Things didn’t have to be so hard. I tried to uplift the atmosphere but because I could only do so much to the affect situation, I resigned to sit back during the long drive home after Ammachi’s evening session to recall last year’s meeting with Her, and anticipate the next. Audibly ruminating over the day didn’t hold appeal to me, or to anyone, sadly.
A dream nights following:
Last night I had a dream about AMMACHI! She was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, and I was beside on Her left. I said something to Ammachi that made her smile, and nod in agreement, and encouragement! It was the most beautiful, serene feeling, and I knew that Ammachi was supporting me, and that She was another of my beautiful guides who is a role model to me! It was such a wholehearted, loving dream… that felt so real!
* * *
Throughout the next 4 pages of this chapter:
Continued concerns over Ben.
Nanna moves in.
Spiritual gatherings, spiritual laughs, and endings.
Melbourne Cup Day, met Zane.
Bridesmaid at Alicia’s wedding.
Zane and I kiss ~ a relationship springing from nowhere.
Chapter Nineteen: Oh To Ride Again
(2000 ~~ 29 years)
Francis of Assisi said
‘You need not leave your room, remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not listen simply wait.
You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet and still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice it will roll with ecstasy at your feet.’
As mentioned earlier, I had begun smoking marijuana again since the Shastri visit…which was so crazy considering the primary purpose for seeing Shastri was for guidance with my health. On discovering the many wonderful things that were to occur for me far beyond my health, I figured a few smokes weren’t going to alter my direction. Marijuana was proven to be medicinally beneficial for people with MS and I affirmed to ‘have one last taste of it’ declaring this was a ‘celebration period’, feeling I deserved it, having refrained from that sensational merry-go-round for well over a year since vipassana.
The soothing benefits of pot helped Mum and me with Harry, for he had become a worsening issue for us. Because of this, it had to end. Mum was suffering from his unsettling energies around us, so it was time to let go. This wasn’t easy. I didn’t want to end it right then, just when the light of sensitive understanding seemed to flicker in his ways. Yet, it was only a flicker and Mum was aflame. Even the weekly star columns supported this with writes such as, ’Give up that cosmic, unrealistic notion’, so I took a step back, and saw my unrealistic efforts, having embarked on a journey I should have left some time ago. Yep, the time had arrived, especially when I reacted to Harry’s insolence one day as we were driving, raising my voice to make him listen. This obvious agitation warned of the beginnings of me mirroring him…!
When I made the decision to let go, it was my turn to receive Harry’s wrong doings. He didn’t pay back money he borrowed, and although it wasn’t much, he let down my trust. It was on the day Mum and I went to see Monty Roberts, author of The Man who Listens to Horses, so the wonder and magic of Monty quickly replaced my disappointment… meeting him was a dream come true!
IT WAS A HOT JANUARY DAY: my entry into the Newcastle Entertainment Centre was going to be extremely difficult if I attempted it on foot… clutching Mum’s arm, resting every few steps etc. I had inquired about the access for people with disabilities before arriving, and on reaching the parking area, we told the elderly man directing us that a wheelchair was reserved for me. He bent down to look at me through the window, and pointed to the 200 metre distance to the venue, ‘you only have to go that far and you’re in…I could carry you,’ he said light-heartedly. Maybe, but what about when we reached inside the doors…there’s usually a lot more walking to do from there. It’s never that easy! Why struggle, why not use a device to make the event enjoyable, relaxing, and effort-free, I affirmed to myself.
We parked and the man came along with a chair. This was my third time using one, and the first with Mum alone (second time was in November last year at the Melbourne Cup day at Ettalong Bowling Club with Harry, family and friends). Mum whizzed me off to the toilet block in the chair on wheels, instead of me laboriously lifting each foot and pulling on Mum’s arm to regain my balance. It was great knowing the pressure was off me to get from A to B. Next, we whizzed along to the food stand to have a bite to eat before the show. Here I moved out of the wheelchair onto a log plank, keeping an elbow on the chair. I reflected on the prayers I normally said before arriving to functions: ‘Dear God, please help me, please help with every step, please make the way smooth’, yet over time, paths only became rockier and more difficult. I then realised that assistance had always been offered to me in the form of a wheelchair … but my ego needed diminishing before such assistance could be gratefully accepted.
The bells soon rang for commencement, so Mum whizzed me off to the entrance. Once inside, we went through the normal procedures of discovering which door, and moved to it—tasks tricky for a person like me on foot. I truly welcomed the luxury of being carried along while seated, and as people bustled back and forth, I sensed their thoughtfulness. All eyes I met smiled brightly in return, and I felt no inferiority being short, looking so far up. The chair was a gift, bringing me even more love because of it, and not the pitying kind, but love that reflected the happiness I was feeling despite my physical condition.
We sat in our prescribed seats and after a time noticed commotion at the other end of the pavilion. Realising it was Monty signing books, Mum hastened our well-thumbed copy over to have signed,—in case we missed out, together with a letter I had written him. It was too late to wheel me over. She wasn’t gone long before she came back bearing a beautiful expression. She’d met him and said he was as sensitively human as he appeared in his book. She described stepping forward, handing him the book, and letter saying, ‘This is from my daughter who would have given it to you, but she has MS’. He looked around and with much compassion said, ‘Bless her! Where is she?’ Mum said he was about to get up, but as I was at the other end of the building, seeing me was impossible. We hoped interval would have Monty signing books again for my chance to meet him.
Tears flooded our faces for the first quarter of the show. To hear his voice and affirmation of ‘Making the world a better place for horse and man’, and to witness this dream coming true, was powerfully moving. To see him interact with horses he’d never met before, and gently instigate a relationship with each through body language was an amazing experience. In less than 30 minutes, Monty had encouraged the horses to accept a saddle, bridle, and then a rider. As a boy, Monty had learned to observe and perceive the language of the horse, from the wild mustangs in North America. He grew to emulate and teach the matriarch’s discipline and reward behaviour; communicating on the level of the horse, to ensure the flight creature felt safe and calm—a state intrinsic to learning!
When half time arrived, Monty was signing books again, so off we went to meet him! The line was shorter for the physically-challenged, so it was my turn almost immediately. He was about to come down to me, but I wouldn’t have it, and with my hands I placed one foot on a bail of straw in front of his desk, and with a firm grip on the desk, hoisted myself up. There we were facing each other… initially he held a slightly bemused comical expression by my manner of reaching him. Love shone through my eyes, escalating as I said, ‘I’m writing a book on my life and you’re in it.’ ‘Very good’ he said.
After placing a kiss on his noble, horsy hand, I moved off the straw bail into the wheelchair, only to climb back up 20 minutes later when Mum purchased his second book Shy Boy, also needing his signature. We left the Monty Roberts event deeply satisfied and grateful to my dear friend Stephen for buying the tickets for us to see him as a birthday present.
* * *
The next day I received another blessing: my first session of acupuncture, arranged by a compassionate friend named Tarsha. The acupuncturist’s name was Mary and the treatment was from the goodness of her heart as she was in her last year of studying the practice. We struck up an instant friendship, bringing with it the blessings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments, once a week. Acupuncture is an age-old treatment that pinpoints the pressure points, meridians, and dietary mysticism behind individuals and their ailments.
After doing a case history and taking my pulses to detect information about me, she said, ‘Your internal organs haven’t been affected by this (MS) at all!’ Continuing to look amazed and intrigued, she said several times, ‘You’re so lucky, you’re SO lucky’, emphasising that my diet is SO important to increase Qi (energy) for healing.
From my pulses, Mary detected sluggish energy emanating from the spleen and stomach organs. She described the surmounted energy required of the lower burner (spleen) to heat the middle burner (stomach) for digesting foods and liquids that are cold or dampening in nature i.e. fruits, salads, raw vegetables etc. This was explained while I enjoyed what was to be my last orange juice icy-pole for many months—as ice-blocks are both cold and dampening in nature. The energy required of the spleen and stomach to process such foods, leaves people in my condition particularly fatigued, depleted of the energy necessary for general functions such as walking. She then went on to detail how, according to TCM, the spleen rules the four limbs and if a problem exists in any of those areas, malnutrition was generally the cause.
I realised that it was never about the quantity of food I ate but the quality, and for the ‘problem’ to have advanced to such a level as mine, it commenced long ago.
My lower abdomen was where I had held any extra weight all my life; however, for the quantity of food I ate it was bewildering why fat was stored there while the rest of my body remained little! Now I understood that foods of an unsuitable nature had been left undigested, as my spleen was literally zonked. According to this theory, foods had just sat in my belly and vital nutrients were held at bay from my brain and lower extremities. Oh, this was making sense; the digestion jigsaw was finally coming together.
* * *
During the first two months of this year, which included my birthday period, I indulged in a little drinking, and a bit more smoking, having decided to return to basics in order to re-bond with others. However, it couldn’t go on, so it was vipassana to the rescue! I’d had a number of stops and starts since re-embarking on the smoking habit and knew full avoidance was the only way for me to let go again. The environment offered at vipassana was the perfect place to subsist for that purpose, and more importantly to re-establish myself back on the pure path: body, mind, and soul! I anticipated this with relief and joy!
Brooke made this possible—party friend Brooke, who I went off balance waltzing with at The Fridge in London, so long ago. She had booked on a course, and suggested we do it at the same time, having dreamed of sitting vipassana together. Finally, I excitedly accepted her idea, for the retreat was to be my opportunity to separate me from, and enhance my understanding of, the illusory world of cravings and desires!
Diary entries: ‘20th Feb—this is Sunday the day before vipassana! My refuge of realignment and de-craving…. Not that I am unhappy fulfilling the craving as I have been, it’s just that I’m not giving as I should in every way! And that is because I am ‘impurifying’ my body with each puff! I am not honouring the beautiful breath, or my body, my Qi and God! Yes, it is time again to re-begin intoxicating mySelf with the joys of pure life, love, breath, and energy! Yes, it is time, and I thank you Divine Consciousness for giving me the Grace again to be in total silence with You! In honour of my Essential Self I go forth in each moment until I write in depth to you again dear computer! Ben is coming over soon to share my last evening smoke! What a wonderful way to spend it, with my first boyfriend—the person I started it all up with when I was a teenager, and Mum is going to her new friend Tom’s, so when Dave comes home it will be just like old days again! Oh I love life! Almost too much, another example of God imagining it better than I could!’
‘21st Feb—this is it! I go today and I can’t believe I am so excited and not even a titch of dread is inside of me, I am so looking forward to this! Purification of the mind is more attractive than people realise…. Thank you Dear God for giving me your grace to know and appreciate that! Beautiful Brooke is coming to pick me up! God Bless Her!’
We went and happily so. Brooke was the best person I could have gone with, for not only is she full of dynamic life, she piggybacks. Last summer, she piggybacked me over a beach and large rocks at Sydney’s Gordon’s Bay, then up 180 stairs and onwards to the car. To carry me over the grounds of vipassana seemed like a cakewalk in comparison.
It was past nine pm when we arrived, so meditators had already taken rest. We signed in and Brooke piggybacked me to my room. Due to the distance of the toilets from my room, a potty was required for the nights. During the other two courses of staying on the balcony level, this was also was the case, though, on those occasions I managed to slide the potty over the balcony from my room to empty it into the bushes. I did this in the dark mornings, while no one was near. This time was different. Almost two years had lapsed, and the MS progression made it impossible to dispense of the urine myself.
A noble Dharma worker volunteered this task, and I couldn’t wait for the last day to thank her verbally with all my heart. Up until that final day, I could only send her abundant vibrations of gratitude; gratitude particularly accentuated due a urinary tract infection I had suddenly contracted. This was very evident to the olfactory sense-door and I was embarrassed, because of the odorous sensations for her. Alas, what could I do? My ego, quickly humbled, was re-submitted in the lesson of egolessness! The Dharma server gained extra skill in observing the truth of impermanence: ‘It will change…it will change’ she may have silently chanted as she hurried to the toilet in the mornings to flush! I only imagined her thoughts, for her mind seemed equanimous, and I hoped she observed the stinky sensations with wisdom.
On saying goodbye to Brooke, we were to make no contact again. We broke this rule on Day Two, when I took a fast spill following the afternoon’s one-hour meditation. Even after a day and a half of meditation, my confidence grew as my balance increased. I was confident enough to exit the hall first, as my position was at the back wall, closest to the door. Normally, I’d take my turn after all the meditators had filed out. However, I’d already gained enough confidence to leave first, and I moved to the toilets, busting to go. Success seemed to be with me and I was almost at the toilet block, when I lost my balance, causing my body and stick to go crashing onto the wooden flooring, making a tremendous noise.
There I lay on my back, waving my arms in effort to flip over, and once over, I’d ideally rise onto my knees to gain leverage to shift upright. As much as my difficulties were apparent, I couldn’t obtain assistance from fellow meditators who moved to help, as contact was not encouraged so to maintain the meditative state of mind. A couple of minutes lapsed before help arrived.
As I wore a floppy brimmed hat to act as blinkers and increase meditative practice, the person who approached me from behind wasn’t visible. So I asked, ‘Are you a server?’ and looked up to see Brooke nodding a silent gracious, ‘Yes’. In reaction to not wanting to disturb her, I whispered, ‘Go away Brooke’, but appreciated her hoisting me onto my feet and safely securing me aside the railing. Then she waited to see me pass safely by into the toilets. Sitting on the loo, I observed steadfastness within my body, regardless of the incident, feeling no sensations of upset or ego-deflation at all. Brooke on the other hand later told me she had walked away with a tear or two thinking she’s so brave, you all don’t know, saying she wanted to scream it to everyone. The image of me looking like a beetle needing to be flipped right side up had her smiling again!
My next falling incident was on Day Eight, following the first meditation hour. It was almost a repeat performance, except this time an incredible feeling of peaceful ease permeated my entire being before falling. My walking had improved so much I took a couple of strides without resting my hand on the railing, hazardously forgetting that I needed too. This time, the moment I was down, a meditator named Patsy came to my rescue. She attempted to lift me one-way and said aloud yet to herself, ‘No, wrong way’ having observed Brooke’s method the previous occasion. Then she hoisted me up with a turn, facing me towards the railing where Brooke—my original angel, was waiting to support me further upright. Because of our positions we hugged and I kissed her heart sighing, ‘Oh Brookie’, feeling love’s benevolence all around me. This time I wept while sitting on the toilet, my heart overwhelmed by the goodness of people. The beauty of friends and complete strangers overcame me, and it felt good.
Throughout the next 22 pages of this chapter:
Vipassana concludes … meet another lifetime friend in inspirational Yolanda.
Miscommunications with loved ones and ‘craving’ for my soul mate: understand why book is called ‘Agony’.
Walking miracles and declining weight due to incorrect diet.
Cory flies over for Julie and Glenn’s wedding: shocked by my walking difficulty.
Julie and Glenn buy me a walker on their honeymoon. Short-term good/long-term bad.
Cuddles and blessings from Amma: the Cuddle Mother/Hugging Saint.
‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ begins to come to life.
Revisit bland diet and Mum strains inspire: ‘If I’m Feeling Blue’ poem.
Mum meets writer John Archer ~ great mentor.
Initiated into Babaji Kriya Yoga—known as ‘Initiations into Kriya Kundalini Pranayama and Dhyanam’… ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ takes flight.
Leon disappoints me when he doesn’t visit me on a business trip as promised. Visits next March.
Chapter Eighteen: Two Steps Forward, Many-Steps Back
(1999 ~ 28 years)
‘If you stop doing what you want, you can do what you like’
My mind wondrously expanded during the process of reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, a book I borrowed from the fire farm. The life experiences of this profound being, together with so many other profound saintly beings, fulfilled a previously unquenchable yearning in my heart.
From here, I felt vipassana meditation had been for the higher purpose of purifying my mind in preparation to receive such divine truths. I embraced this book as a gift from God! For here was a great Hindu yogi’s self-written account about his colourful life and associations with many of India’s God-realised masters. Always destined to become a yogi, Yogananda shares the miracles he experienced in his life as well as some of the sacred teachings he obtained on his road of awakening. Reading this was a dream come true for me. I absorbed Yogananda’s every line of his life story, adoring his writing style, magnificent expression, and grace… the treasure of his heart and soul! Yogananda was the first yogi ever to share the divinity of his experiences in such a way. And, through his sharing, my faith in God grew boundlessly stronger and my belief in healing my physical challenge became unquestionable!
WITH SUCH GODLY WONDER in my life, it was easier to inform Di of my decision to study alternate weeks with Reg. Blinded by blinkers, Di resolutely disagreed stating it would make ‘continuity of study ineffectual’. Aware of my promise to remain non-sectarian, she made the decision for me and her mindset affirmed that the Jehovah Witness’ policy was unaccommodating to an unbiased approach to learning. She was upset to lose a new student, but ultimately the choice was hers, and we warmly said goodbye.
Di returned a few days later bearing a gift: a little red book called Mankind’s Search for GOD published by Watchtower Bible. Primarily without prejudice, the book provided an overview on the worlds various religions. It was the perfect gift that focussed on the overall unity among religions, and so union in diversity! Di wrote a note on the inside cover, ‘Dear Suzie, May this book help you find the ‘Truth’. You have a good heart and you seem to be searching. Christian Love, Dianne’ Isa. 55.6 Proverbs 2:1-22.
Because of Yogananda, I felt a sense of God intoxication for the first time. He presented God as most loving, sacred, and precious. Fear of God was not exhibited in the old Western way; instead, Hindu’s teach to guide one’s life in awe of our Maker—in love with… For the first time, my idea of God rocketed. He even interpreted Christianity beautifully—the Bible is completely different when explained with esoteric yet lucid, supernal wisdom, insight, and light—the reason why I sought to study it here in Oz.
* * *
Love all around, my brother David wrote me a note, displaying his heart and mind at that time:
‘To my Suzie
Just a little note to say I am so proud of you. The way you deal with your little problem is a credit to you and I will always try to help you through this.
Unfortunately, I am living in a mixed up world at the moment. I do my best to help you because you are so very special to me. Please understand that sometimes I go through strange moods but deep down you are my most beautiful person in my life. Love Dave xxxxx’
I was encouraged by my family’s love, and was so thankful I never experienced moods because of my ‘problem’. Ironically, though, I was still hunting for the right type of anti-depressants (as per the phenylamine/vitaminB12 injection/anti-depressant cocktail discovered by Cari Loder—the English girl with MS), and thankfully, no types affected my usual positive temperament. I felt no mood alteration at all! After a two-month trial, the third brand of anti-depressants also proved futile. This would have been disheartening if a new brand of anti-depressants hadn’t joined the market. Doctor Carmel had mentioned these in my last visit, saying they worked on a new area of neurotransmitters, similar to the ones that had already proved best of the three for me.
This sounded promising and my confidence grew when I saw the Efexor packet for the first time. ‘They’re the ones’, I said seeing images of suns and moons on the back of the tablets, indicating morning and evening doses. To me the symbols exemplified sun and moon energies that give light, movement, and life… I took this as a sign that those were the ones! The sacred fires of agnihotra seemed to present this gift to me, in honour of the sun and moon cycle.
I commenced the final type of anti-depressants available in early February, and took the first dose in the morning while reading in bed. Not half an hour had passed and I could move my right foot in a quick sideward motion. This was unbelievable. I hadn’t been able to do that since MS came on. Exciting adrenaline surged through my body! Yet, do you think I got up? No! Mum was at work; so to avoid disappointment, I decided not to get up in case symptoms were still present, and read for another hour with the thrilling thought that walking again just might be possible! But when I rose, my first steps confirmed my former symptoms, although reduced! I wasn’t too disappointed. I welcomed the increased balance plus sturdiness when lifting my right leg, pleased with even this improvement!
AN IMMINENT MEETING with Shastri would bring me more information about my health. I first heard his name from Grace at the fire farm. She said, ‘You have MS… there is an Indian man named Shastri—a learned master in deciphering Ancient Sanskrit records—who comes to Australia once a year. He reads from an ancient Sanskrit book that was interpreted by Ancient Rishis (fully-enlightened beings who brought Vedic and Ayurvedic knowledge to the world). He will tell you why you have MS and what is going to happen. If positive, he will tell you how to put all your energies into healing, if negative he will provide a way to turn it around if it is karmically within his power to do so. It also serves as a karmic account record, providing a summary of your karma as it is right now!’
Five days before the meeting, I went to Ruby’s for the day—a woman who I’d met through Mum and chose her to be my scribe for the Shastri reading. We’d met only once to do a double agnihotra sunset fire (as Ruby performed agnihotra too), and we wished to get to know each other more before the meeting. On the Shastri day, I knew it wouldn’t be easy for Mum to take notes, far too mentally and emotionally occupied to convey details to paper. And, having heard of Shastri, Ruby knew the encounter would be unique for all of us.
While I was at Ruby’s house, one of her friends came to visit, an interesting woman named Irene whose clairvoyant abilities consciously functioned. Ruby had told Irene of my Shastri appointment, and despite knowing his great source of reference she was confident enough in her own ability to express the following:
Looking at the shape of my hands, Irene said, ‘You are very artistic’, and ‘should work with children, perhaps doing painting’. She went on to say I shouldn’t seek work in the missionary field as I have done it many times before, and this life was not for that. She said, ‘Your faith is very strong!’ Next, she asked me to stand up to have my aura smudged and cleansed. Before I knew it, Irene held a sage stick above my head, and then began flapping the smoke with an eagle feather birdlike around my body.
Despite the blessing, standing for such a length became more difficult as the minutes went by; however, she was to say another profound thing before I sat. Holding the bottom of my spine, she said, ‘You have the weight of the world on your shoulders’. ‘You have felt much burden, and still hold it in your spine.’ ‘Something happened in a past life, where you saw people die… children… in an earthquake or a volcano! Something devastating like that, to which you felt responsible. You felt you could have saved them!’
Amazingly, Shastri soon reveals that—‘You and the children die in an avalanche, and you felt responsible!’
Two days before the mystical meeting, Ruby met Shastri when he bought hats from the hat shop she worked at and she phoned me to say he had a happy, vibrant personality. This eased my mind. I had been worrying if I was doing the right thing. Fears had started to rise since I’d been studying the Bible every fortnight with Reg the pastor from the Seventh Adventist Church.
I wasn’t a yes sir student, often battling with Reg - albeit benignly, on missing foundations struck from the Bible such as karma and reincarnation, in the 4th Century by Constantine. As well as about the sad misguidance of gays not being ‘allowed’ into ‘heaven’ due to their so-called sin, and drunk drivers who fatally hit children destined to ‘hell’. I’d say, ‘If they’re going to hell then I am too. And I know God wouldn’t want that, if there is such a place’. Now archaic thinking had me worrying that I just might be breaking Bible commandments by seeing Shastri. I sent prayers for a sign, and it seemed answers came to me three days before the Shastri date, when David and I went for a swim at Ettalong Beach.
We were lying and swaying in the tranquil waters, sharing quality time under the warm sun. It was very special, as it had been a long time since Dave had been in the ocean and his face beamed rejuvenation. The occasion was blissful! Before leaving, we had brother sisterly moments when he held my hands as I lay on my stomach and pulled me through the water, thrashing me from side to side. It was fun! Although I discovered, I had lost both contacts when we were back in the car. Those things cost a lot as my eyes had stigmatism. Oh no that’s a bad sign, I thought, but kept the loss from David to avoid dampening the happy mood!
The next morning, sitting for agnihotra sunrise, I prayed for another sign. Soon after, the fire went out! Oh my God, I’m not meant to go! A saddening prospective! I phoned Grace from the farm later that morning to share my reservations about seeing Shastri. Grace answered and on realising whom it was she exclaimed, ‘I was just thinking of you!’ I told her of my fears that seeing Shastri could be totally going against the Bible. With much thought she said, ‘How can I say this without hurting you? It seems you don’t want to be empowered; you don’t want to empower yourself!’ She went on to suggest my hesitation might because I preferred to remain with my physical challenge, proposing I found comfort through dependence.
I’m unable to recall Grace’s exact words because my thoughts were back on the fire farm, of me having a placid disposition, sitting happily regardless of my situation. Even before MS, some people assumed me somewhat giddy, too happy, and friendly to be the full quid. At the farm, my position had been in the student role, so I had no inclination to speak over Grace and Luke to get my experiences and views across. I was more than happy to listen and receive pearls of wisdom. Grace’s words implied they had missed my message; however, I received wisdom again, for it was certainly time to become empowered! On hanging up, my mood had risen: I was off to see Shastri, surrendering the outcome of the meeting to God, finally realising it was God was sending me there anyway! So, I was calm when the day arrived.
MY GREATEST CONCERN while dressing was the rising temperature. It was hot! I wore a light fitting white dress, and the Shiva-Lingam and copper Shri Yantra around my neck. The only other item I brought along was the Autobiography of a Yogi for support and as mark of acknowledgement for the mystical journey I was about to embark on.
Mum and I headed off on the twenty-minute journey to Anna’s house. All four windows were down in our non air-conditioned car, and hot wind thrust about us as we zoomed along. I had expected to feel a pit of bubbly nerves in my stomach on approaching the destination, but I wasn’t anxious, surprisingly, despite the magnitude of the meeting and the knowing that my life would have irrevocably changed by the return route, having bitten the apple and gained the fruit of knowledge… No longer ignorant to what was really going on... My recent fears left behind. There was no turning back; I trusted only good would come out of this meeting! To Shastri we went!
To meet this mysterious Indian man involved a very long climb! The afternoon was growing even hotter and Shastri was staying at Anna’s home—the place on top of the very large hill I visited for the meditation evening last year. This time, on looking up at the eighty-plus flight of steps, I feared how the soaring temperature would affect my ability to battle them (too steep for a car), as my MS symptoms had already worsened. I knew the exertion would be incredibly worthwhile despite all difficulty… especially on discovering secrets of my soul, karma, and soul plan. A priceless pot of gold was the awaiting reward for my feat; all efforts were prepaid!
The purpose was to gain insight into my condition, to discover why MS had come about and what was going to happen to me. If the revelations proved positive, which I intuitively and trustingly believed, I would receive invaluable guidance and information to strengthen healing. The other major reason was to find if I was to renounce this worldly life...
* * *
Throughout the next 14.5 pages of this chapter:
Incredibly sacred, liberating, and colourful revelations given at the Shastri reading that changed my life irrevocably.
Enrolled in part-time Child Care studies as per Shastri’s suggestion.
Leon finally released from my heart after Shastri’s holy man predictions.
Letter/poem to my unmet soul mate.
Julie and Glenn’s engagement party ~ attempt at partying like old times.
Mum is relieved of work, becoming my full-time carer.
On Shastri’s counsel, commenced writing my autobiography, ‘Blessed are they who have found their work’.
Met up with Harry… friend from my teenage days: commence short romance.
(Beautiful photo from the collection of Arsh Matharu Photography)
Chapter Seventeen: Turning On The Light
(1998 ~ 27 years)
‘Recognise what is before your eyes, and what is hidden will be revealed to you’.
~ THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS
Jia told me before Christmas that he and Liz were having a break. He sought my company during part of this period, hoping to find some answers, promising their problems had nothing to do with me as they had been having troubles for some time over the last few years of their eight year marriage—and they’d been sweethearts since their teens. I’d known Jia since I was 15 when visiting the Palmer’s in Melbourne, so he felt like family to me. Even still I couldn’t believe he wanted to do what my actual family could not and that was help me during the summer heat, knowing I’d need it. His inclination to assist me was heightened because Jia’s mum suffered from MS. Due to an understanding broadened by something so close to home, he said he felt compelled to help me
I couldn’t deny this! To go without meant sitting out the days at home since Mum was often at work. This summer was highlighting my difficulties as never before… Like a commander demanding rest, MS would force me to sit even after using small amounts of energy performing necessities. Shocked by this age-like lack of physical stamina, my lengthy rest seat was in front of a fan circulating hot air that quickly heated our small fi-bro home. Driving to escape was out of bounds, because the heat made driving dangerous as my foot would often slip off the accelerator, and my braking strength wasn’t consistent. Plus, our car was not air-conditioned.
Whether inside or outside the house my condition grew worse throughout these days. I would sit on the veranda for fresh air, because we closed the windows to keep our cats inside the house—off the busy road, which made the house like an inferno. Mum hated leaving. Alternate to existing this way, I’d stay at Louise’s air-conditioned home, but would overtire with my nieces and from too much cleaning. Especially when Louise was out, I’d voluntarily readopt my old cleaning habit.
Therefore, Jia’s suggestion of escaping to the mountains was heaven to me! Camping in temperate conditions was an opportunity I couldn’t ignore, for the sake of my health. I weighed up the consequences of what this decision could and probably would bring from my Melbourne family. Would I really lose them if I put myself first? They hadn’t made contact with me when or since my MS diagnosis, so I felt they didn’t care about me at all. This feeling had existed for sometime: the family conference call in Perth only enhanced it when they didn’t take the time to say hello.
It was easier to see this as rejection, which somehow freed me to embrace the care Jia offered, even if it meant losing them, who didn’t seem to be in my life to lose! So, I thought, so be it. I told myself there was everything to gain from a wonderful friend like Jia coming. The purpose of our time was pure and elevated. Feeling protected by that, I allowed the process to unfold, hoping everything really did happen for a reason. I felt blessed help was coming!
After Jia drove 3500 kilometres across Australia from Perth to Sydney, (a drive he was due to take because he was moving back to Melbourne), we packed up and took half a day driving down to the Snowy Mountains. As we drove further from Sydney’s thick energy weighing me down, I couldn’t believe my luck and inwardly thanked Liz for this time. Jia and I had a natural affinity and we talked enthusiastically about spirituality and healthy living. Jia’s pure living inclination even encouraged me to give up cigarettes, finally.
Once on the Snowy Mountains accustomed to being covered with snow in winter—the same ones on which I skied (albeit poorly) when I was young—we cooked on fires and camped under the stars in two locations for two nights… but not without repercussions.
It was Jia’s birthday on the third day and we went into Jindabyne to call his Mum who he’d told not to lie about his whereabouts—that’s how innocent our mission seemed to us… but not so innocent that we told Liz upfront knowing she’d be upset. So, once she heard that Jia was with me, and thinking the worst, the Palmers had a round table meeting in outrage, deciding to banish me from the family forever. Without knowing this, we also assumed the worst from the Palmers and knew that Jia needed to return to Melbourne immediately, so we packed up the next morning and left, abruptly ending our journey.
Initially I was down because my health had just started improving. The mountain air did me wonders! Those selfish thoughts made me feel bad, especially now everything was out in the open! The fact we had been camping made it worse—camping having been one of Liz’s and Jia’s favourite activities. We went for the dry, clean mountain air, to give my body a chance to escape Sydney’s dripping humidity. Our only solace was that she truly didn’t know my situation, and we hadn’t wilfully hurt her.
Back in Sydney, saying goodbye to Jia was incredibly sad because of the heartache caused. We had moved closer and now didn’t know if we’d ever see each other again. Saying goodbye was heart-wrenching. Jia was returning to his initial plans to take time to himself, his confusion only increased by visiting me. His caring wishes had backfired, and my willingness to receive had placed me a treacherous light… ‘As the compass always points north, a man’s finger will always point at the woman to blame’.
I FELT MISERABLE on my twenty-seventh birthday. Julie and her boyfriend, Glenn put on a BBQ at Louise’s and Ian’s, and friends came. Despite trying to be happy, I wasn’t, my walking nearly ceased in the stifling heat and I realised for the first time that I couldn’t get up from my seat and circulate around the table to talk to all my friends like I used to, or have spontaneous carefree, happy jiggles whenever and wherever I wished. My hidden sadness would have affected those present. My only hope was an escape to meditate in the Blue Mountains. Not knowing when, where, or how, the only thing certain was I desperately needed meditative respite!
Larry, my ex-colleague from State Super, unknowingly responded to my pleas. He rang the next afternoon to say hello, and give me an update on his daughter with MS. I told him mine was worsening, and that everything else was getting out of control as well. Emphasising, ‘I just need to go to the mountains to meditate’. He said his other daughter did vipassana meditation in the Blue Mountains, and was in retreat as we spoke! I loved the sound of that and grew very excited when waiting for him to call back with the number of the centre. After Larry rang, I called the centre and advised them of my condition. On fulfilling all necessary enrolment procedures, they gave me approval, and I was off to the mountains two weeks later. Prayers answered!
At this time, a family issue rose in my immediate family about our living situation that had me at the centre, due to my strong but reluctant need to speak up when necessary, making me look like the vindicator, as words were inevitably turned against me. The outcome was positive, but uncovered a problem that had brewed within me for a long time… an issue of respect and silencing my voice on matters I needed to make a stand about, especially concerning my own wellbeing and living circumstances because what Julie and Glenn had suggested involved Mum and me living in what Mum and I considered unsatisfactory conditions for a short but indefinite time on buying a three-storey house! Before I left for the retreat, we briefly spoke about this on the phone, saying we would discuss it on my return. A discussion never needed!
* * *
Sharee came along to help Mum on the trip to vipassana, as Mum feared driving the unfamiliar return route. The temperature increased as we drove west, climbing higher when we took a premature turn through Penrith. We were meant to do this as I saw Penrith Nepean Hospital for the first time—the hospital where I was born. As we drove by, I called out the window, ‘I’m about to be reborn’. I had no idea just how much!
My vision of a sanctuary seemed shattered when we arrived at the meditation grounds. The set up suited the bushland, but I needed to take only a few steps down the gravel path to anticipate what I was in for. I held tightly onto Mum and Sharee’s forearms and lifted, slid, and dragged my legs along, with my head tilted in the air, and gravel flying. On reaching solid ground we were further disheartened to discover the girl’s section was not the dining room immediately before us, but through to the other side of the large building.
Finally, we reached the female’s room, where the heat became even worse for me without the big entrance doorways as in the male’s room, and with the sun belting through large, closed windows. Heat-hampered messages from my brain to hand made it near impossible to write final enrolment details. Sharee took over my pen, while Mum got refreshments and spoke with the woman in charge, named Yonit. Yonit was the manager of this particular course, assigned care duties for the female students. Reassuring to say the least!
After registration, she took us to my room; a special needs room designated for me with shower and toilet to make life easier when in the room, but its location was another dilemma. We followed Yonit, and negotiated our steps to the open terrace, down a ramp, across a footbridge, up a path, and along another dirt track. After many stumbles, I fell! My legs would not lift or budge any further, causing the fall. Trying to swallow tears, I looked up at Mum thinking, I can’t stay here! By this time, another woman named Pat was also directing us, and I looked towards her expecting she would affirm this; instead, she encouraged me, ‘It’s just up here, you’ve nearly made it!’ They were gracious words, but on seeing where they pointed—up a dirt hill another 50 yards away, I just wanted to stay down and die. Somehow, my body made it up there and into the room, which was wisely the first one.
Mum set about attempting to make the empty room homely and manageable for me. All the while, the three of us secretly wondered how I was ever to manage in such a place. The room was great, but the distance to the food hall was greater—approximately 150 metres—worsened by uneven landscape to tackle in between. Even so, I was mainly concerned about the closeness of the meditation hall, because more than ever and more than food, I needed to sit with eyes closed, body still, in effort to find help for my failing body. A desperate predicament!
Once set, Mum and Sharee had to leave for the long drive home. Saying goodbye was very, very difficult and worse for Mum. We all were in tears… frightened ones. Was it humanly possible to remain at the retreat in my present condition? It felt like I was in a mental home for eleven days, except my situation was worse. More than ever, I was experiencing the drawback of being physically impaired, and felt stuck, confined! Although I was free to move about, the food hall seemed out of question to me. My only hope lay in the nearness of the meditation hall; and wherever it was, there was an open, uneven slope to navigate before finding it.
We cried and cried. Mum asked if I wanted to go home. But I was here for a good reason, and needed to trust the process. Trudging back to the car seemed more impossible than staying at that moment, as well. Fatigue enhanced all my fears. I felt utterly overwhelmed after such exertion in the heat of the day! Eleven days, ten nights, seemed such a long time…!
We moved outside the room to say goodbye. After finally dragging ourselves away from each other, we waved until out of sight. Then the aloneness started seeping in. I went and laid on my bed to wallow in woe.
Then suddenly, Sharee stood in the doorway with my forgotten water bottle in her hands, happily interrupting this state. She was a vision of mercy and the last thing I expected… We cuddled, and she said repeatedly, ‘You’re so very brave, Suzie Q, so brave!’ I went out again to wave her off, and this time my re-entry into the room didn’t seem so bad …
* * *
Throughout the next 21 pages of this chapter:
Experience liberation at vipassana on every level. Wishing the world May All Beings Be Happy.
One month later, return to another ten-day meditation retreat.
And, three days following attend another retreat.
‘Standing in the Sunshine’ and alternative treatments.
Readings: children on a large scale and, ‘you’re going to write girl, oh yes you are, you’re going to write.’
Move back to the Central Coast ~ childhood homeland.
Drive myself around on healing adventures.
Receive news from Cory that Liz is in love… and he tells me that he was also with Liz a few times before I visited Liz and Jia in Perth. News that makes me so happy, confirming, ‘Nothing happens on the outside that hasn’t already happened on the inside’.
Begin performing AGNIHOTRA—‘The Ancient Science of Healing’, a technique practised in the Vedic times.
Visit Fire Temple ~ Homa (fire) farm in the Hunter Valley—mantras and full-moon, sunrise and sunset fires.
Read Autobiography of a Yogi ~ seek further spiritual insight.
(Wonderful photo from the collection of Jann Gail-Jones)
Chapter Sixteen: Working Out What’s Important
(1997 ~~ 26 years)
Gotama the Buddha once said:
‘This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth & death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance; a lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain.
We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.
This is a precious moment, but it is transient, it is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring light heartedness & love, we will create abundance & joy for each other. And, then this moment will have been worthwhile!’
MS is a wet dis-ease according to Chinese philosophy, and as my limbs felt heavier whenever I returned to Sydney after periods away from its humid climate, these theories were on the mark.
Steep stairs at Julie’s house highlighted that ‘my problem’ was worsening. Each day I felt rigidity creep into my legs and I was periodically fatigued, necessitating a trip to the neurologist to see if he could help.
At the appointment, after I followed the standard neurological routines of walking on tiptoes, on my heels and one foot in front of the other, Professor Snow diagnosed spasticity in addition to my walking condition, another MS symptom, and prescribed Baclofen medication as treatment to ease this by helping my knees to bend, eliminating all stiffness, which worked for one night only.
A great night for them to work too, as I had VIP passes to see The Corrs—an Irish music sensation that evening. I walked up and down steep stairs with ease at the vibrant concert and went back stage after it meeting the beautiful family band members, which continued at the bar of the hotel they were staying at in Rosebay. I also met John Stevens from Noiseworks that night, so it really was night of meeting stars. I loved feeling ‘normal’, fun and free, so in hope to repeat the effect Baclofen had on my body I continued taking the drug for far too long to no avail.
Professor Snow also gave me a prescription for the Beta-Interferon medication at the appointment saying I qualified. This didn’t surprise me; although, I tried to side-step the reality by telling him that the neurologist I saw in Perth before Christmas wasn’t even sure it was MS. Looking at me solemnly the Professor said, ‘You have MS’. I felt real pangs of terror for the first time! I simply did not wish to put my body through chemical warfare!
* * *
As things seem to go, Mum was in need of me almost as much as I needed her. Mum and Ron had finally ended their time together, and we needed to find a home in a location near Mum’s work. We found an old, cute little house in Pennant Hills that seemed perfect on our first and only day of searching!
Until we woke the first morning after moving in, to the sound of many cars and realised we lived on a by-pass route to the main highway. That peak hour road was to cause Mum and me much heartache, by the way of our ginger pussycats Precious and Angel! Precious was named after Julie, Angel after me. Although a h cumanly impossible title, Mum commenced calling me Angel following a meeting I had with a man in Perth…
One sunny, Perth morning, as I was drinking a freshly-squeezed juice at a table outside a café, a person with one arm missing and the other wired up with metal, walked towards me from across the road. He had a smile that beamed brightly to anyone looking his way and he stopped to smile broadly at me before passing by my table. ‘What happened to you,’ I asked in a happy yet sympathetic tone? ‘What part of me?’ and he went on to tell me of the truck that had veered head-on into his lane and motorbike. Sparing no details, he explained how he didn’t lose consciousness on impact, and saw his arm land in the truck driver’s lap. When everything stilled, all he could say was, ‘Give me my arm back’. He also suffered further wounds by the loss of his upper thigh muscles; feet muscles; use of existing arm; and the loss of most of his large family, unable to cope with an amputee!
I asked what he did for work, but because of medical requirements, he couldn’t manage full-time employment and was very limited on the part-time front. I asked if he liked computers. He replied enthusiastically and I enquired if he would be interested in learning the network engineering side of computers to become specialised, which would permit more time away from work while earning good money. Sure enough, he arranged funding for training through his compensation affairs manager, agreeing to pay for each course on successful completion of the previous. Happily, he succeeded at 17 days of the 22 day program—the remaining days entailed Service & Support, which required pulling a computer apart, fiddling a lot, and then correctly putting it together again: tricky with two hands! In a very short time, he had ongoing and personally suited employment supporting a large company’s network system! When I recounted this to Mum she said, ‘You really are an angel aren’t you!’ Of course, I knew it wasn’t me pulling the strings on our intermingling, pre-destined paths.
A CAR HIT ANGEL soon after we moved into our new home! It happened when Mum was getting ready for work and she had the shower or hairdryer running when the men who hit him knocked on our door. We know this because when Mum arrived home from work nine hours later, our next-door neighbour said he’d heard a loud bang then saw Angel injured and fleeing under our house! Next, he saw the men who hit him kindly go looking for him, and then knock on our door, where there was no response (to which the neighbour was not aware). No one was aware, so our darling boy sat under the house unnoticed all day long.
My vivacious friend Julian from Perth visited me that day, and he often danced around the living room—directly above Angel’s unknown recovery position. Whenever Precious came into the house I’d say, ‘Where’s my Angel?’ wishing Julian meet him. Julian certainly did meet a battered and sore Angel when we discovered him once Mum arrived home, and he even drove us to the vets, Mum carefully holding Angel.
No need to detail the worry we went through that night before the x-ray the following day. I left a clear quartz crystal in his cage and we sent him prayers through the night! The morning’s examination revealed that the only thing we needed to worry about was money for the necessary ‘carpentry’ work running into the thousands, or put him down. There was no option, although, Mum was fleetingly practical, concerned over using our only financial ‘security’ at the time; her fears heightened because our living together had just begun. Comments from cynics ran through her mind, ‘All that money on a bloody cat!’ This was a not simply a selfish motive, it would have been selfish to put him down—he gave so much affection to everyone! Anyway, you do that sort of thing for a family member!
Angels of mercy assisted our situation: Gabby and Dave—on the veterinary front, and Sarah and Clint operated the pickup and delivery side of things! Gabby and Dave were vets friends doing practical studies at the Sydney University of Veterinary, and specialised treatment was a lot cheaper as a result. Angel was away two weeks, and the repair work involved a plate in his hip and a pin in his leg. The surgeon warned that he would probably limp and not jump again, and I surmised that Angel was suffering for me. Some karmic event had taken place that offered me an opportunity to observe and learn from the bold nature of the cat, from the nature of nature. Angel was soon walking along our fences in his bandages: abolishing all limping and jumping fears. We watched his daring displays in wondrous horror initially, and as his agility increased, my mind strengthened to the belief that I too would run and jump again! Angel effortlessly re-adopted the mode of body following mind, and he inspired me. This cat had become my teacher!
I FELT SICK at the thought of using Beta-Interferon during this time, injecting myself with chemicals and animal proteins, every second day. I was staying an evening and day at Stephen’s house when the scheduled call came from a friendly nurse in charge of administrating Beta-Interferon instructions. Thankfully, Stephen was present; because my world was spinning out of control when I hung up… scared, helpless tears fell from my eyes. For the first time he saw me cry and he understood, having known me at my finest, fittest self to my now seemingly crumbling self; crumbling well before its time was our opinion! Like an eternal comforter, Stephen offered me sanguinity and hope that everything would okay. I hung off his words with every fibre of my being and silently prayed.
I phoned Leon for solace when Stephen went to bed that night, but another call soon came through on his end, so he said he’d ring me in a couple of days. His caller could only have been Donna, the girl he began seeing during my last month in Perth, and I only discovered this on calling him from my home in Perth one night, during our final stages…
Originally, my idea had been to surprise him by catching a taxi to his place, however thinking better of it, I decided to ring first. Wise move… it was me who was surprised when Leon spoke in strange stifled tones, explaining he was in the middle of watching a video with a ‘friend’ in need; apparently needing refuge from her boyfriend. That was the first mention of another woman, and he barely ever mentioned her again… allowing me to jump to any imaginative conclusion!
Hurt by his lack of concern, I immediately rung Cory, knowing he would genuinely care. Cory was at a pub and was delighted to hear from me although saddened by my unhappiness. ‘You need my arms around you don’t you darling!’ were his first words. ‘Yes!’ love and understanding were all I needed at the time… except for a new brain! I went to bed feeling more positive after the phone call, and a short time later Leon rang back, having had a humility check on the way he had dealt with me at such a time. ‘You sound much happier than before.’ ‘Yes’, I agreed but didn’t disclose why.
I decided to defer proceeding with Beta-Interferon for the time being—trusting my condition wouldn’t deteriorate too much. Being in the second year of MS, I believed progression would be slow, hoping degeneration wouldn’t happen at all!
* * *
Throughout the next 25 pages of this chapter:
Acquire great, high-paying job in the city, which I knock-back due to mobility to and fro.
Acquire great job in a ‘new age’ crystal shop.
Lindy visits in a dream.
Healings continue: kinesiology and shamanic.
Attend the 1997 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, (my seventh), straight all night, few dances.
Leon allures me with mixed messages from Perth. I write 35-page love letter expressing my heart.
Leon visits me in Sydney: passionate, rocky, painful, yet hopeful.
I visit Leon in Perth for his birthday.
Still, can’t forgive me for not leaving Cory when we first met.
We last three days. Very emotional separation.
I go to my cousin’s where I reconnect with Mark - an old friend, Cory, and Liz’s husband, Jia very well.
My health improves in Perth due to its dry heat.
Chapter Fifteen: Love is Harder Than I Thought
(1996 ~~ 25 years)
‘It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’
Antoine De Saint-Exupery ~ The Little Prince
One evening in late January, Leon arrived at my front door. We had discovered through conversation at work on the phone that he rode passed my street to his job, and I asked him to drop by sometime. Because he looked wild and rugged with his long, brown dreadlocks and South African accent, I also asked if he would like to stop by for a smoke with Cory and me. But Cory wasn’t home the night Leon came, he was in Kalgoorlie two evenings for work. As much as it could remain innocent here, it can’t. Cory was absent when I suggested he visit, but I truly didn’t speculate on the potential dynamism of our meeting, and made no effort to beautify myself in ways one might do when meeting a person of interest. On a conscious level, I saw him as just another friend.
I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek—the normal way I greet guests—and he stepped through the door with a warm smile. He brought a bottle of red wine, and so we drank. We talked and talked until I finally revealed my secret ‘problem’. Immediately his compassion was obvious. He showed me so much empathy that I felt blessed to be in this unexpected company of confidence. His way was so strong, yet gentle, and soft.
He offered to massage my right foot, and of course, I readily accepted. My pleadings to Cory for massages were long exhausted, having at last understood he was not a touchy person, growing bored once started. I would often say to him I wouldn’t refuse a massage if anyone offered me one. So, I felt quite entitled to this treat!
The massage felt exceedingly wonderful, exhilarated further by every pressure point Leon penetrated on my foot. My feelings soon incited beyond the MS cry. With a body and mind vibrating to the tune of wine, marijuana, and touch, my sensations sensationalised, and my mind ran out the window… Leon stayed longer than he should and I was in bliss in his embrace.
Next night when Leon arrived, we decided to have dinner in Fremantle, entailing a twenty-minute ride on Rosy—his hot, red 750c Honda motorbike. Careless, fearless youth had me dress in a short-suit and boots, recklessly leaving my arms and legs exposed. The ride was exciting, and as we sped along the coastline in the chilly wind, I sensed a shift in my consciousness. My world was widening all of a sudden… my experience with Leon was opening me, invoking me to feel like a woman (he was such a manly man) and a woman of the world at that, because of his cultured European background. His South African accent was melodious and softer than the general South African intonation, and his ways too were softer than I’d seen on any man; his entire body moved and vibrated eloquent love.
On reaching Fremantle, we parked Rosy in the motorbike section, and walked along an old cobbled street to choose a restaurant. We ordered pasta, I barely touched, preferring to absorb the atmosphere, the company, and red wine n’ ciggies! Later, we headed back to Perth and while riding in the wind, I felt rebellious and childlike, a grown woman at one with the elements.
Once home, I asked Leon not to stay long. Cory was returning the next day and I still loved and respected him enough not to let my feelings run too far away to disregard him completely. Leon respected this and offered me a back massage before leaving. Following the healing massage, and true to my request he quietly departed, locking the door behind him.
The next morning at work, we were on the phone. For reasons beyond guilty feelings to Cory, I cried and cried and cried. My heart ached due to unfinished commitments to Cory; commitments I needed to fulfil before starting a relationship with someone else.
A week later Leon met me for lunch, wanting to celebrate a week since meeting. I felt uneasy in his presence after what had happened, and didn’t know what he expected from me, but trusted myself enough not to have an affair.
What occurred highlighted the rift between Cory and me (the general result of such measures), and I became more fragmented in my thoughts, which fragmented my energies, confusing Cory by my silent moments. Smoking marijuana numbed the reality of it all, and assisted our times together. We really enjoyed making dinner and dining on the bed while watching TV—our nightly special, and if that was all life contained, then we may have been the perfect couple. But, life contains more! Marijuana was an effective but impermanent Band-Aid counterproductive to truth discussion. Even without it, I couldn’t imagine bearing the reality of letting him down … telling him I had met the promise I made him make in London. Now, I couldn’t find the courage to be honest, thinking that telling him would be worse than not telling him at that moment, for both of us. It wasn’t time, and my heart was both happy and sad.
But Cory couldn’t put a foot right on my 25th birthday. As I was still at an expectant stage in life, thinking it was up to others to display expressions of happiness on birthdays, to show how they really felt: I felt let down and upset by him. Next day, I relayed this woe in a fax to Stephen, which says more about me than Cory:
‘Cory apologised in bed saying sorry that he appeared crappy all day…! Said he wanted to make this one extra special for me! Sure has a wonderful way of showing it to me hey…? Anyway, signed and sealed we DO NOT belong together, I don’t care what the future brings for me without him…because I’m going to try…and pray I’m looked after upstairs…because I’m sick of Loveless relationships! First with Ben, now with Cory! I do deserve more don’t I darling…I know you’ve been saying this to me for such a long time; I just haven’t truly believed it UNTIL NOW! Yes Je Suis malade of it! I know I’ll be okay, anything’s better than the stress I brew being with Mr Hee Haw (Cory’s nickname), he not such a nice fellow to me… is to everyone else though, and I’m over being Suzie Loveless! I want the whole world to see I’m in love, and I’m going to find Love! I have to or I’ll just wither away, as I am right now…I only need a little bit, and that little bit still escapes me… How and Why I do not know! Do you? Noy, Noy, Noy to that question I say!’
* * *
I saw Leon again the following week when he attended a four-day training program at my workplace. On each of those days, we shared cigarette breaks, and he returned early from lunch to sit in my office. Even though nervous energy encompassed us from across my desk, I enjoyed his company and felt aglow in the warmth of his loving vibrations.
Initially, it did seem feasible we could be together sooner rather than later, but I imagined this for an outlet of my mixed up feelings, and for the benefit of Leon’s wishes. The fact was I simply could not leave Cory so quickly and dramatically! I spoke with Mum through this bewildering time, telling her of Leon’s desire for me to move in with him, and although he wasn’t placing pressure on me, I felt his weight! Soon after, I told Cory about Leon, revealing that we had kissed and cuddled. You can say it was more than a white lie, but Mum had convinced me that the full truth would unnecessarily hurt him. I gratefully took her wise advice! Cory valiantly understood and allowed me space to work out what I should do.
One afternoon, Cory asked what it was about Leon that made me want to be with him. With tears running down my face, ‘He treats me like a princess’, I replied. Cory well knew of my longing for affectionate tenderness and expressive love. Almost a year into our relationship, I would say: ‘If you don’t start giving me affection, then eventually I’m going to stop!’
The lack of affection reciprocation was the only real cause of our upsets in our initial years, because I’d often assume he wasn’t proud of me etc and become more insecure (especially in the beginning when I carried extra weight). Demonstrative affection would have been hard for Cory, particularly because he wasn’t a very cuddly person with a partner, having grown up without seeing his mum and dad display tenderness, although they loved each other immensely. I realised this first hand when I lived with them. So, with understanding and love Cory said, ‘Darling you deserve to be treated like a princess! Please let me treat you like one. Give me a go Suz’. We cryingly agreed to give us a go! From thereon I was less available to Leon’s phone calls at work, and was slow to answer his emails.
Leon soon realised I wasn’t going to leave Cory. Secretly, I understood that meeting him confirmed my mounting fears and feelings over the past two years, but I was still saddened and confused and couldn’t suddenly leave Cory. He and I had our own special, loving bond, more than warranting a slow and loving separation. Our oneness needed gently carving back into two!
My heart still yearned…
* * *
Throughout the next 23 pages of this chapter:
Ultimatum love letter and poem from Leon.
My best friend Lindy tragically leaves the world.
Begin slow walk along the path to mind-liberation.
Brief comfort in Leon’s arms.
Karla comes to live with Cory and me. Inevitably assists real beginning of our break-up.
Time of hic-ups: MS; Leon; and Cory.
Decide to return to Sydney to live at year’s end.
Live by myself: independent.
Fall in love with Leon in romantic Pemberton.
Leon can’t forgive me for not leaving Cory when we met. Breaks-up with me.
Get my driver’s license: sprout rubber wings…. Experience worse MS episode.
Return to Sydney.
Chapter Fourteen: 1995 ~ Elephant in the Room
‘You need no lip or tongue for praying. But rather do you need a silent, wakeful heart, a Master-Wish, a Master-Thought, and above all, a Master-Will that neither doubts nor hesitates. For words are of no avail except the heart be present and awake, and the tongue had better go to sleep, or hide behind sealed lip’
The Book of Mirdad ~ Mikhail Naimy
On New Year’s Eve, I went to The Dolphin Bar, Surry Hills with Julie and old dance party friends to celebrate the year in. The big banger Amsterdam New Year Julie, Cory and I experienced 365 evenings earlier already felt light years away. Especially when by 2 am, after I danced to party tunes for two or three hours, my right foot began growing heavier and heavier as if it was it was made of lead.
Back at Julie’s, a couple of hours later, the reality of my problem started sinking in; I couldn’t believe my nimble footedness and abundant energy was leaving me. It felt like I was slipping away as I sat at the kitchen table semi-conscious of happy voices around me. I was pensive at an outing for the first time I could remember, introverted, attempting to grasp the seeming fact that my body was beginning to have trouble performing simple actions. This was strange and frightening. Realising my brain was sending incorrect signals to my body, was initially terrifying.
As I absorbed my new situation, no one could have known what was going through my mind. After a time, I moved into the lounge room to sit on the couch, and when Julie saw I was fighting tears, she sadly said, ‘It must be MS then’. I nodded with tears now in my eyes. Endearingly she added, ‘I wish this could happen to me rather than you. It’s so unfair. And there you are with a Penthouse Pet’s body’. Never thought she thought of me that way, but I appreciated her compliment, deeply touched by her wish to swap places.
Understanding the gravity of my situation, sweet friends tried to make it easier. For example, Jason and Stuart—two handsome party friends bursting gusto and life, said to me as the hours wore by, ‘Have you ever felt like going to the toilet here, but the toilet it way up there’ pointing to the stairs. They were offering to carry me to the toilet upstairs, but I was too sad such a measure needed taking and refused their kindness. Going to the toilet was farthest from my mind and body needs that morning.
Mum and Ron picked me up later in the day when I called asking them to. It wasn’t like me to leave a gathering without going to a ‘recovery party’ on New Year’s Day or something, but I certainly wasn’t in or up to the party mood, and I left Julie’s townhouse feeling demure. In the car on the way home, Ron spoke about a dream of owning miniature ponies to keep in the backyard. The vision and thought of his loving suggestion scared me because I could suddenly see the boundaries MS may impose on my life.
* * *
Since I experienced more of the dreaded physical difficulties we hoped would never again occur we knew it was time to book a MRI scan and see another neurologist, not feeling my initial neurologist was right for me.
A few days later, at the appointment with Professor Snow—known as the best MS specialist in the country, I described my symptoms and he told me that it was very likely to be MS, but I needed a MRI scan and an electrolysis test for more indication. He made a booking in another section of the hospital for later that day.
Mum and I tried to enjoy lunch in the outside cafeteria as normally as possible until the time arrived for the hardest examination I had ever taken. Once we were there, nurses convinced Mum to go home assuring her that I wouldn’t feel any discomfort during the procedures, stipulating that they had only recently ceased offering Valium, despite it still being offered on the pamphlet Professor Snow had given us to read about the tests. So after a comforting hug from Mum, I parted with her to commence a three hour electrolysis analysis, where, firstly, I was a human pincushion with twenty needles penetrating my head while I watched a red light move repeatedly back and forth across a black and white checker board for thirty minutes to test each eye’s visual response.
Secondly, my hearing was tested, which was easy, but in order to examine my electrical responses in the third test, I endured electricity shooting up each limb, causing my thumbs and big toes to move disturbingly back and forth. Although I didn’t show my feelings, the experiences had been painful and icky, and I walked out of the hospital with confident strides, catching a taxi to Julie’s to meet Mum.
Mum was waiting outside Julie’s gate when my taxi zoomed passed, overshooting the stop a few houses. I climbed out of the taxi and walked up the street to Mum, who was holding an umbrella for me in case it rained, and as I walked with perfect motion I couldn’t imagine how this ability might somehow leave me. As Mum watched me coming towards her I imagined she thinking the same thing and in our eyes we knew without saying any words. We hugged and while we walked along the garden path to Julie’s front door, I described the overall procedure of the electrolysis analysis. Mum couldn’t believe what I’d been through and sighed unhappily on seeing bloodied pinpricks in my scull.
The MRI scan was the following week and Mum was with me when I waited on the narrow bed of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine. The size of it was daunting and we imagined it would cost an airplane or two. Mum held my hand, as the man sitting behind mirrored windows spoke over a loudspeaker informing I would be moved inside the machine. Mum’s hand came in all the way and her face reflected in a mirror positioned above my head. We smiled brightly to each other, and our smiles reassured that no matter what was wrong, everything was all right.
They told us if nothing showed in the first stages of inspection they would need to inject dye into a vein to assist detection, as had occurred with the CAT scan before Christmas. Five minutes lapsed, and then the voice over the loudspeaker announced that the examination had ended. My heart simultaneously sank and rose. Rose, because I was about to be moved away from magnetic waves, and sank as it meant they had found something! A strange calm transcended over me from this impending fact, and stayed with me as we moved to the waiting room where Dad was waiting, having been delayed at work. Once I was seated, Mum took Dad to see the massive machine—the teller of concealed secrets.
Soon after, Professor Snow invited us into his consultation room. He fixed the x-rays onto a light screen and stated, ‘I think the MRI scan confirms MS, I think we can say it is MS,’ having found three little lesions in the left side of my brain. I think. Thinking didn’t seem good enough. Eagerly, I offered, ‘Oh but they’re only small!’ To which he replied more intensely, ‘Big can be little and little can be big. You can’t tell from the size’.
‘Oh there goes that hope,’ I thought.
I had written a list of questions to ask Professor in expectation and preparation for the worst. ‘Are there any vitamins like evening primrose oil that would help? Do you have any suggestions regarding alternative therapies?’ Confidently, he promptly replied, ‘Vitamins won’t help you, nor harm you,’ and dismissed alternative therapies with a wave of the hand. Hoping for something hopeful I continued, ‘I was told that out of a 60:40 ratio of people with initial MS-like difficulties, only 60 percent would encounter another attack, the other 40 would remain symptom free’. Professor Snow looked very serious and said, ‘Who told you that? It’s more like 80:20!’ Oh great… my previous neurologists had given the 60:40 ratio, and we thought they were good odds! Encouraging odds and ideas were diminishing all the time.
‘The likelihood of people having MS is one in 1000 people,’ the Professor added.
Wow, that is unfortunately special, being that one! I couldn’t believe my luck.
He went on to say I should avoid over-emotions as they can cause exacerbations.
What should I do then, wear rose-coloured glasses? I thought. But said audibly hoping for some practical assistance ‘Is there anything I can do for myself, so not to bring on an attack?’ As if for the first time Professor Snow pondered and then, ‘Mmmm…well, don’t do aerobics and don’t have too many hot baths’.
I exhausted my questions without receiving any useful answers. It was obvious he couldn’t offer preventive advice and/or treatment programs. Our session was consequentially complete. We rose to leave. Professor Snow moved to beside the door. I shook his hand on the way out without any real warmth, feeling he was intent on giving false no-hope, rather than giving any hope, even if the nature of the condition seemed in itself hopeless.
Dr Snow was probably hurting too, having imparted such news onto a family, but sadly, he lacked the necessary skills to express empathy, although Mum and Dad said he went to give me a hug … but I was rushing too quickly out the door to notice.
Continuing in haste through the waiting room and directly down the hall, I turned to see Mum coming behind me with a pained expression. I was heading for the toilets, and she followed me saying, ‘I know you’re going to be okay, I just know it’. They were reassuring words. I emerged from the cubicle and cuddled Mum; we sprinkled water on our faces, and walked out to see Dad waiting for us, staring out of a window. It was heartbreaking seeing him look so worried. We went downstairs and stood on the curb not knowing what to do next.
In an effort to find a positive retreat Dad said, ‘I feel like some spaghetti, let’s have some spaghetti’. I couldn’t think of anything worse, but knew it was his way of finding a place for us to unite. As Julie lived nearby, it was natural we visited her. We hailed a taxi-van and once inside I asserted quite emotionally to Dad, ‘Thank you for getting me my horse!’ With a confused look, he asked, ‘Why?’
‘You need balance to ride a horse!’
* * *
Throughout the next seven pages of this chapter:
I’m ‘the ball’.
Getting brown by the pool and temporary employment in the city.
Healing and alternative therapy appointments commence… (On viewing my right palm he remarked, ‘Oh you are a determined young girl’.
Attend my sixth Mardi Gras: dance all night with Paul, Julie and Daniel—like the old days. Dancing to the, I’ll be fine mantra.
Robbed again while out partying.
Health specialists and medical test results: MS was repairable, ‘If and only if…’
Fly to Perth to live with Cory … will our relationship deepen after all the changes?
Manifest great job.
Life regression… My guide the purple light.
Julie visits: the threesome reunites.
Meet the man who fulfils Cory’s enforced promise—promise made after London sexual misdemeanour.
Chapter Thirteen: 1994 ~~ Is This All There Is?
‘The world outside of me is created by me—not the trees, not the clouds, the bees, and the beauty of the landscape—but human existence in relationship, which is called society, that is created by you and me. So the world is me and I am the world… That is the first thing that must be established: not as an intellectual or an abstract fact, but an actual feeling, in actual realisation. This is a fact, not a supposition, not as an intellectual concept, but it is a fact that the world is me and I am the world. The world being the society in which I live, with its culture, morality, inequality, all the chaos that is going on in society, that is myself in action. And the culture is what I have created and what I am caught in. I think that is an irrevocable and an absolute fact’ ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
At midday on the first day of a brand new year, we finally woke still feeling buzzy from the exceptional night. Famished too, so we headed over to Marco Polo’s for the greatest feed of pasta and pizza ever! After indulging in a tasty, creamy pasta each and a slice of pizza, we came home overly satisfied, and slept again until 9pm-ish, when we got up to get ready to go to another RADICAL REHOUSING PARTY at Herengracht!
Arriving at 12.30 am, we sat at the bar drinking for a while (not much—too expensive) and smoking J’s. The party played spacy, ambiant nearly impossible-to-dance-to house music; so, we sat and watched interesting and funny people dancing instead. The funniest were two hippy-looking guys with long blonde hair, from Helsinki we soon discovered, and they seemed to be totally in love and very ‘out-of-it’. I couldn’t stop smiling at the prettiest one with feminine features, so he came over when he saw me and struck up a very long conversation. He was a physics student and we chatted excitedly about learning new things! His passionate zest poured over me as he spoke, and I realised he wasn’t so much high on drugs, but high on life, estastic on love.
Following this vibrant energy exchange and bidding farewell, Julie, Cory and I found some seats by the dancefloor with our English friends from Images, and soon got up to dance, but only managed a few because of the spacy music. It didn’t matter; we still enjoyed sitting, listening, watching, and we felt very good, having a little bit of substance left over from the night before! We met a few people, and I met a guy named Anthony from Amsterdam who was half Indonesian, half Dutch. He was very sweet and a great, fun dancer—as if from our dance party days, and we had a few dances despite the music with Cory looking on with a smile on his face!
After a very good night overall, we left around 4.30 am to go home, have some smokes and fall to sleep. It was beautiful walking the streets of Amsterdam at that time of the morning, so peaceful and pretty, mystically special with its many canals, bridges, and character homes quiet at dawn. Another world entirely!
* * *
During the week, we finally visited the Hash and Marijuana Museum, which was a definite must (at least for Cory) before we left Amsterdam. Detailing 8000 years of history, the museum revealed the many uses of cannabis and hemp, including the production of paper and textiles, as well as its medicinal benefits, and suggested that scientists would continue to discover further potential for its use. It also showed how hemp had evolved to become one of the world’s most renewable resources. I loved seeing positive reports about pot and its many, many uses (approximately 10,000), although felt angered that the world had not got its act together and legalised the obviously helpful, little plant!
Before leaving for the museum that morning, we contacted Dad having not spoken to him for days! It was great hearing his voice and very comforting. The money, though, had been delayed again until Wednesday: Hope morning, Dad afternoon. Apparently, this was final! During the conversation, Dad asked us to wait until Wednesday in order to travel to France from Amsterdam. I prayed for it to happen, and my French visa was ready to go having had it arranged in Sydney before we left! Dad’s optimism about the money made us more confident, and even if it still didn’t come through we comforted ourselves with the hypothesis that if Julie had to fly home on Monday 10, she would be able to come back and meet us in springtime when we could start our real holiday in lovely, WARM, friendly weather.
In the meantime of waiting, we spent most of Tuesday perusing through the Van Gogh Museum, having decided to spend our money wisely and do our brains a favour. Looking over his edgy material throughout the huge museum, it was hard to detect any hints from his work suggesting that he was a very bizarre artist with the potential to cut off his ear and send it to his girlfriend because she wouldn’t listen to him! Not surprisingly, he had only a short life: 1853-1890, but in that time he managed to paint a wide variety of hundreds of very appealing works.
FEELING A LITTLE MORE CULTURED in Amsterdam now, we rang Dad to see when we would be leaving because the time had arrived for Julie to get back to London for her flight! Our MasterCard situation had made it impossible for us to consider leaving on our volition, because once again, we had managed to go UNDER! I informed Dad about the state of affairs, and under much stress, he said he would do his best to get enough money for us to return to London, as well as pay the amount owing on our rooms. So we believed that somehow, Dad would manifest it, our poor, amazing Daddy! He also said that the money had been moved to the following Tuesday! The day after Julie was scheduled to depart and we surmised that it would probably happen then. We ALL hoped it would, Julie didn’t mind, as long as it did come through, and she would be able to pop back over, straight away! Then it would be off to London’s Heaven nightclub for us!
As we had no money, Don, the saviour manager of our old hotel, gave us another cash advance! We gratefully ate a delicious breakfast/brunch at a gay boy’s restaurant we had recently found, called The Mediterranean, and returned to our rooms for a day of cards to avoid spending any fl!
By Thursday, Dad had flushed up my MasterCard enough for us to book our return bus/ferry/bus ride to England, repay Don, and spend the last few precious hours enjoying our final day in Amsterdam. Suddenly we were all sentimental, realising how much we loved it there, and didn’t want to leave. Accepting that all good things must end, we lifted our spirits, and ate our final breakfast at Images. Then we enjoyed a smoke in the Greenhouse Effect sitting at our favourite window seat, playing cards, and simply absorbing the environment, taking in the sights, and waving at the occasional police officer as he left the station almost directly across the road. We loved the freedom of choice and respect given to people in Amsterdam.
Soon we were joined by our newfound friends, and a friendly English-Jamaican guy, who came in because we smiled at him from the window! He was a sweetie and even bought us a drink—we had assumed he was going to try to sell us drugs…‘Hashish, coke, ecstasy for the ladies etc’ (we’d heard from others many times). We videoed the inside of The Greenhouse and its fabulous marijuana menu for a memoir, and then visited Hill Street Blues for one last drink, videoing there too! It was sad, finally leaving and saying goodbye to people we’d seen everyday…The Guilder man, The Happy Man at the café (always smiling, the one who gave us a free banana each one day), Café 36 staff, Greenhouse staff, etc, etc too!
Yes, we knew we would miss Amsterdam and the Amsterdammers. It was bizarre walking towards Centraal Station with our backpacks, leaving our near two-month home, a home as colourful as it had been unusual. Our experience was also colourful and unusual; sad as well as happy; sane as well as crazy; satisfied and unfulfilled. We had experienced the entire spectrum of emotions, and came out the other side, somewhat more mature, cultured, except still in the same financial boat.
My last impression of Amsterdam, as we stepped inside the station, was of a hip, old-worldly town, initially impenetrable by the communication barrier and the cold, but waiting, bursting for social connection with the rest of the world… even if it remained untouchable with its exclusivity, because it was just so charming and culturally and morally advanced!
The train and bus ride to meet the ferry to cross the channel seemed quicker than our journey in. At the ferry turnstile, we met a couple named Linda and Michael and enjoyed their company on the ferry, promising to meet up in London the next day. Even though it was still the midst of winter, England’s weather seemed akin to a welcoming, warm bath when we landed, compared to the flatlands of Belgium and the Netherlands.
In the dark before dawn, the bus ride ended at Victoria station where our long journey had begun. We caught a tube to Notting Hill Gate, and trudged with our backpacks to our hostel—Bowen Court. Although we had never expected to return, our pre-booked room in the large, old building was welcoming. Exhausted: sleep quickly took us away. We were home again in England.
* * *
Throughout the next 19 pages of this chapter:
Julie returns to Australia.
Two great homes and permanent employment eventually found despite dodgy hiccups.
Cory shatters our world with a sexual misdemeanour that causes ‘the promise’ to be made that alters our course indelibly.
Events at the London Pride (gay march and after party akin to the Sydney Mardi Gras), change my life forever…
Holiday driving around the south of Ireland – Cory’s birthplace and banks don’t compute with London = money dilemma again…
Red convertible through the west coast of America and robbery in Las Vegas.
Home to sunny Sydney where life will never be the same.
To make up for yesterday, the universe gave us a reward. Our initial mission for the day was to go to the Post Office to send Mum’s letter, but it altered at breakfast when Tony—our waiter/friend at Images café, gave us a little micro-dot to try—a small portion of concentrated acid. For a complete release, we did, and what a day it turned out to be…
First, we went for drinks at the Dreadlock Coffee Shop with Tony and two other English guys. Any other day, this café would be a usual Amsterdam café, except today it was very trippy to us the moment we walked in. Large dreadlock paintings adorned the walls, and intense rave music was playing that impacted quite heavily on the acid brewing in our brains. After staying there a while, absorbing the psychedelic atmosphere, we decided to head over to the Post Office as planned. Not such an easy plan by now! Walking the streets was suddenly hectic with obstacles and ‘funny things’ everywhere.
Funny things were the usual things, such as bikes, riders, colourful trams, musical sweet vans, people calling their unusual dialect to people across the street, etc. But today, it seemed as if everything had popped out of a comic book. The narrow character cobbled stone streets were even cuter, the tapered classical white townhouses with dark framework were even more outlandish, and the Dutch were more melodious when they spoke, with animated gestures, and stately when they moved… it was as if we were really in a fantasy world.
The Post Office proved too much for our little brains and we lost it out the front, laughing, laughing, confused, and laughing. We were laughing at the simple complication of moving through a waiting line, laughing at being in a big building, confused about being around serious faces, laughing as we stood inside the building’s bright interior lights etc. We decided to quit trying and head back to the safety of our familiar area to have a drink—laughing at everything all the way. Happy Hour at Rick’s Café was where we headed, via the bank…
Here our day started falling apart. We thought we had more money in our account, but when we went to draw it out, nothing was allowed. Our little spirits dropped a touch, but we still had a few fl on us, so we went to Happy Hour, not letting another let down spoil the day. We laughed our heads off at Rick’s at lots of things. Mainly about growing up with our beautiful Dad, and how funny and gorgeous he was and is! We could only just afford one large round, and we made sure we enjoyed every drop as well as the last of our cigarettes—always fair with each other, we shared puffs on our ciggies, accustomed now to sharing everything.
It was pouring rain when we left, but we didn’t care laughing to each other as the rain fell down, ‘Of course it is!’ I could feel Julie and me growing closer throughout our entire holiday ordeal, and today I really enjoyed our strengthening bond. We headed off to see if we could get any money out of the bank. But no, of course not! So I went to call MasterCard, not happy about our money-life, yet again.
At the ATM, I couldn’t make much sense on what was happening, but quickly understood that money wasn’t in there. Maybe we had taken out our daily quota, we weren’t sure. We decided to leave it until midnight to try again. Completely drenched, we lastly went to try to get a packet of cigarettes without money from our side-street shop man before we could go home to escape it all. The lovely shop man, who gave us a free banana each one day, happily obliged, accepting payment tomorrow.
Once home, following a yummy, long hot shower with Cory—highly deserved after being drenched and running in overdrive all day—we realised we needed more marijuana and Cory devised a way to get some on credit. To the Greenhouse Effect he went, handing over his passport for two grams of Northern Lights—the recent annual World Cup winner. Cory had handed over his passport and our camera the last time this happened. Now they trusted us with just his passport—our faces growing familiar to them over the weeks.
Stoked and thankful for the much-needed abundance of smoko, the three of us settled in for euchre and more laughing. A few hours later, before we tried to go to sleep, Cory visited the bank at 12 am to discover nothing was in it. We were disappointed having looked forward to a burger at the 24 hour KFC, and I was starving as I’d eaten only fruit and a delicious apple cake all day! We went downstairs to call Cory’s parents to see if the $200 they were going to deposit before the weekend was in there, and we were thrilled to hear they planned to do it in the morning. Now, we didn’t need to call Dad for help and went to sleep comforted that money would be in the bank when we woke, plus whatever funds Dad was putting in!
We did interesting things and ate good meals over the next few days, as well as saved money on smoko after Tony from Images introduced us to a guy named Phil, who sold pot from home. During this time, the Eten n’ Drinken’ manager asked us to move to an improved room in our hotel, as ours had been pre-booked by a couple who came every year. We were very happy! Our new room—number 5—was big enough for five people, one level up from our original room, and at the back of the building, not above the noisy street like our old, little rabbit-hole, smoke den. No more cabin fever for us and no more late night street activity noise!
We treated ourselves to f12.50—full priced movie tickets, to see The Little Buddha, after searching to no avail for the f2.50 movies we’d heard about. Cory and I especially enjoyed having a Thailand type fix, merging briefly in our imaginations with the preciously happy eastern culture, wishing we hadn’t hurried away from the paradise we’d experienced in Thailand.
The next day we continued seeking more meaning to life and splashed out on things other than simply food, accommodation, and smoko, by visiting one of the most horrendous homes in history: Anne Frank’s.
The nature of Anne’s story warranted bleak weather and treacherous conditions; however, the sun was soothingly warm and the sky bright blue when we walked to her hiding house. Standing beside the canal in front of her house, we were amazed to see it that looked like any other dwelling and was very close to the heart of Amsterdam, only a couple of blocks from the Post Office …
It felt horribly eerie entering the building and moving up the stairs. On the first level, we watched a five-minute video, affirming the reality of the holocaust. Up we went to the next level and sure enough, there was the famous bookcase! Old folders were still in it from that time! I felt strange yet privileged stepping through the decoy bookcase and climbing up those steep stairs so typical of Amsterdam, to peek into the terror stricken world Anne had bravely endured.
The first room was the Frank’s small living area/bedroom and all-purpose room (kitchen, dining etc). Next was Anne and Mr Drussel’s tiny room, in which the walls still displayed Anne’s newspaper and magazine clippings! It was tragically sad looking through the windows at the scenery they used to see if ever they took the chance to brave a peek through them. I could only imagine how terrified they would have been of the outside world. It was too depressing for words. Up a level, another two families abided in secrecy. The ‘Secret Annexe’ was surprisingly big overall; however, for three families for 25 months in hiding and unable to leave, nothing was big enough. The most devastating fact is that they were betrayed very soon before the war ended! They all died except Anne’s father, Otto Frank! How dreadful!
We left exhausted and moved. Anne Frank had touched our hearts… ‘The little girl whose dream was to be a famous writer. So if anything, at least her Diary, with her writings, has made her famous worldwide, for what it’s worth now the Poor thing. Bless Anne, and her poor father—who survived it all!’
In a situation no way comparable to Anne’s, Julie, Cory, and I stayed in our hotel room most of the following day, playing cards, relaxing, leaving it only to wash our clothes at the laundrette across the road and purchase some salami, tomatoes, an avocado and bread rolls at the deli next door for a tasty dinner.
We had received a call from Dad the day we went to Anne Frank’s, giving us an update: Monday is the day! Two days away. This time Hope had a 7.30 am appointment at the bank, who assured her that she would receive her money, because the ‘numbers have dropped’! Hope wanted no further cancellations; she was in a desperate situation. She had no money, (as Dad couldn’t help her anymore), and had now placed a caveat on her money, which ensured that the Bank could not invest it or anyone touch it. So, we hoped she could touch it on Monday, as promised! And, before Christmas Please! Dad planned to call at 11 am Monday morning with the news—‘Please let it happen’, in my diary I wrote!
SUNDAY NIGHT BROKE UP THE BOREDOM of waiting. We went out for the first time in weeks to a ‘Radical Rehousing’ all-night benefit party at Herengracht 114, for the release of a man who was currently in a Thai Jail for the possession of weed, sentenced unfairly to 25 years. A monetary value had been already negotiated for his release and a f10 door fee for the party went towards this. Sadly, we hoped to avoid paying anything towards his freedom because f30 between us meant we wouldn’t be able to afford drinks or anything. But after a hike, we arrived at the party where our friend Tony had put our names at the door and decided we couldn’t dodge a good cause, willingly paying towards it.
We moved through long, narrow hallways with red and dark materials hanging from the doorways and walls, and sat in the chill-out room for a while. In this brightly lit room, away from the dance floor, I wasted what little money was left by having a yucky tasting Power-Pact Protein drink—which made me vomit in the ladies room. They were supposedly smart being called Smart Drinks, but not smart for my tummy.
After the vomit, we moved into the dancing room where Julie and I danced, sitting down soon after because the music wasn’t the best, no beat, and the smoke machine released smoke by the second. From there we took in funny sights on the dance floor, making up imaginary names, or pretended they were people we knew. We were happy to be out except I still couldn’t get into it, even though Julie was having a real good time at one stage, and Cory was cruising! We left at 2.30 am because the techno music was so heavy, we could take no more—brain-fry material!
The walk home was beautiful and very peaceful in the wee hours of the morning. We landed home for many smokes and rounds of cards, and thrashed it out until we were tired—which took me forever. Lying down, the nearby trams clattered noisy reminders of the past unsettlement in Amsterdam and I couldn’t stop thinking about, ‘The poor Jews and the Germans and the cruellest man in the world to live—Hitler!’ (Words I wrote in my diary the next day.)
I finally fell asleep at about 6 am and woke at 10.30 am, to wait for Dad’s phone call downstairs! Julie stayed upstairs, and Cory and I received an orange juice and coffee ‘on the house’, from the lovely waitress Nancy, while we waited. Dad called at 11.20, and not with the dreamt of news—the money having been delayed again, and this time, until Thursday week. Final, final stages with the bank (the shits), who wanted to wait until the end of the year, why, we did not know.
Incredibly, Dad was still adament about it coming through! So, that was good enough for me (it had to be). We contented ourselves to the idea of a little threesome Christmas day with Julie, Cory and me eating a proper Christmas lunch and making the best of it in Amsterdam—hoping it snowed!
We spent the day in playing cards and catching up on sleep. In the evening, we had a truly satisfying Italian meal at Marco Polo, and we were happy until we later tried to withdraw tomorrow’s money from an ATM and the bank would not allow it. As far as we knew, I was apparently, approximately $300 in credit. I had just told Dad this morning we’d be right until Wednesday, but, of course, suddenly we were in the red again!
Consequently, we rang Mastercard yet again to learn I’d overdrawn my balance somehow, but could withdraw whatever Dad put into it, thankfully! I now needed to call him again, tonight, and hound him for more money. Dad was not allowed to be at peace, it was so unfair, we hated our good father being so messed around. He had never messed us around our whole lives, the last thing he wanted was to start now! Thankfully, we had just enough dosh at home for some smoke and one pack of Smarties to share.
WE SPENT THE WEEK freezing our bottoms off and enjoying the lovely cold, wet, horrible, disgusting weather! We hunted for a location to eat Christmas dinner, and found a bargain price full English Chrissie dinner at The Frisco Inn. A friendly guy named Steve running the bar, told us about it. It sounded welcoming, and he mentioned something about ‘seconds’ and happy hour priced beers/or a free bottle of wine. Hence, it sounded great to us, and as it was the cheapest price around town, we were happy. That was our exciting week, added to by a visit from Tony from Images—our first guest to our room, breaking up our week a bit. We also had a postcard fix and sent marijuana Christmas cards home to everyone. That too made us happy.
Dad called on Christmas Eve at 9 am to let us know $800 was in our bank for Christmastime. We were thrilled! Cory’s parents also put money in, so we were rich suddenly (as far as we were concerned). Happily, we ate breakfast downstairs, rang MasterCard to check our hefty balance, and walked to the nearest ATM to withdraw money, and buy little Christmas necessities (film, pen, fringe for Julie).
How dare we be so presumptuous!
At the flexi-teller, our day went wrong. The all too familiar, ‘Unable to complete, contact your bank’ beeped its bleak message. We walked a distance to another ATM, and waited in line again, only to receive the same message. Disbelieving this could be happening: we telephoned the bank and discovered that electronically MasterCard systems had gone down worldwide. Can you believe our luck and on Christmas Eve too? They advised us to go into a bank here and have them use Telex to gain authorisation from Westpac. We tried this twice, but Amsterdam is one of the very, very few European banks that don’t use the ‘telex’ system! It really was bad luck for us, even though money was there!
Generously, on hearing of our dilemma, Don—the manager of our hotel, offered to give us a cash advance saying he would pretend it was a food expense or something…so, ‘Thank The Lord for letting us have money to enjoy Christmas’! By the time cash was in our hot little hands, the shops had nearly closed. We rushed to purchase film, pay for our Christmas lunch, and buy fruit for breakfast, (Julie missed her fringe cut).
We returned to our room in time to have a relaxing smoke, and get our beautiful rained on hair and persons ready for the Christmas Eve Party at The Greenhouse Effect, where it was f10 to get in, free finger food, plus 1 guilder (75 Aussie cents) beers—much to Cory and Julie’s delight.
It was a jovial gathering with great deals of smoko on offer too, and everyone seemed to have a good time in the very friendly, cosy atmosphere—an atmosphere much more civilised and cultured than drinking spots back home or even in London, as we hadn’t seen one drunken person in Amsterdam so far! We were now becoming familiar faces in Amsterdam, the locals becoming accustomed to us, which made us feel we were home again (sort of)! Back in our room, after a the festive get-together, we had another smoke and fell asleep looking forward to Chrissie lunch, and wishing our family a beautiful, loving Christmas!
We woke to a gloriously bright Christmas day in Amsterdam and called our families, getting quite emotional in the process. It was wonderful speaking to everyone! They were in high spirits (some teary) and it made our Christmas. Speaking to Mum was very hard because we simply wanted to cuddle her, to give her kisses, and wish our Merry Christmas’s person-to-person, hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm! While speaking, a Dutchman behind us wished Julie and me, ‘Merry Christmas’. Mum couldn’t hear, so he actually got on the phone and wished her a merry one in his thickly foreign accent, which she loved, imagining she was here with us. Our family was sitting around the BBQ and pool, lucky things. It was 7.30 pm in Sydney when we spoke—a beautiful time on a hot day in daylight saving time—and it was 11.30 Christmas morning here, so we were happy to speak to our families actually on Christmas Day, loving and missing them so much.
After the phone calls, we readied for Christmas lunch. Our turn to fill our hungry bellies! After filming a quick Christmas hello video to everyone out the front of The Grasshopper with Centraal Station in the background and a blue sky overhead, we arrived at Frisco Inn, a little disappointed to find nothing special was set-up (actually, nothing at all), and no nibbles. Anyway, we sat on stools at our wall-table and waited. Soon afterwards, (not too soon) a guy told us lunch wouldn’t be ready until 3 pm. Disheartened, we played cards and had a couple of drinks. When dinner finally came, it was rewardingly better than expected… especially the turkey and cranberry sauce. Our bellies were well and truly satisfied! We had chocolate mousse for dessert, which was nice, but we passed on seconds, not wanting to be piggies. We also enjoyed a free glass of wine while listening to a woman singing Jesus songs.
Satisfied and smiling we returned home after lunch to drop off the video camera and let our food go down. An hour later, we were out again, at trendy Café 36, which always played great music and offered uplifting vibes. Interesting to sit and watch people come and go, as the cafés of Amsterdam filled with Italian and French men coming for the holidays! Mainly men, of course, were coming for the lifestyle and the red light girls. Next, we visited the Greenhouse to have a relaxing drink, and then head home early with some treats to save money, because, of course, we had managed to spend too much of our stunted budget! At home, we played cards, and had a yummy home-delivered pizza after Cory and Julie talked me into it! We went to bed merry and content following an enjoyable day—our first Christmas away from home and we were brave, with no family to hug, no presents to open… Christmas is definitely more special with family and friends around!
The lovely Eaten n’ Drinken manager asked us to leave our hotel during the following week because it was full for the New Year, kindly organising for us to move up the road to The Fiddlers, a few hotels away. We packed and walked up Warmoesstraat, thinking we were moving on that day, only to find it was the next day we were meant to be moving, so it was back to our old, large room up the many flights of narrow stairs for us, looking at the upside of saving thirty guilders extra per night because our new room included a bath and shower!
We couldn’t move in until midday the next day, so we had a puff at Speak Easy to pass time, and wandered over soon after 12. It was so pleasant having a bathroom and shower adjoined to our cosy room for three. And, more gifts were waiting. While Cory and I were relaxing, we didn’t pay much attention to Julie when she quietly came out of the bathroom, sat on her bed, and bent her head silently intent on unwrapping something in plastic. Casually, I asked her what she was doing. She brushed me off with a quick, ‘Nothing’, but fairly soon after said, ‘What would you say if I said I had just found eight happy pills on the bathroom floor?’ ‘Have one’ Cory quickly replied.
We did! We had a half each and went downstairs to the Fiddlers Irishbar, playing pool, cards and drinking yummy beverages. We were beginning to think our luck had changed! At least—no matter what the money situation—we would have a happy New Year!
And this we did! In my diary I wrote: New Year’s Eve ~ Amsterdam does it with a Big Bang! Banger City!
As the three of us were getting ready in our room on New Year’s Eve, night had fallen only a short while, when it suddenly sounded like World War 111 out there! Bangers—sounding more like bullets, exploded almost continually, people screamed, and sirens rang. We were almost too scared to leave our hotel, instincts advising us to lock our door and hide, not wilfully walk amongst it! For a long time, we had drinks in our room, listening to the commotion outside, and I worried about what was really happening. At one stage, I uttered, bewildered by the racket combined with amphetamines, ‘It is war out there’. Thankfully, there were periodic blasts of silence to ease our nerves and bring logic back to my mind. Gunpowder smoke came up the stairs, (seemingly, from attacks below) and we made sure we were in a ‘perfect’ state of mind to brave it outside before leaving!
Merry and numb enough, we intrepidly ventured down the narrow, steep stairs so distinctive to Amsterdam, and opened the door to the street. It was exactly as we hoped: non-malicious gunpowder smoke everywhere, people running or standing blocking their ears, and hiding. The street of Warmoesstraat was in chaos! We braved it to the Fiddlers’ bar entry next-door, only to find it overcrowded. Directly opposite, the Hill Street Blues café looked appealing with an empty table at the window—safe from all the bungers (firecrackers in boxes), so we quickly claimed the spot!
Amsterdam made as much noise as possible, for approximately six hours! It was a high, but very scary! At one stage, big beautiful firecrackers released into the night sky in the distance, very welcomed after so many RIOTS. The coffee shops of Amsterdam were competing for the loudest bungers, and our coffee shop/bar happened to manage the hugest cracker just when Julie and I risked a peek outside! Shrapnel hit Julie in the ear, and we felt deafened from being so close! The noise sounded as loud as buildings crashing down and grenades going off! Safely back in the Hill Street Blues, we consumed potent drinks, feeling exhilarated, and a part of the excitement.
We returned to our room at about 1.30 to 2 am to get our video to video the street. Everything was still going off, so we captured a small portion of the festivities on Warmoesstraat, and after returning the camera, our next plan of attack was to find a nightclub for a New Year’s dance, as we were in the mood! However, after three taxi-rides through the city and freezing our bottoms off walking, we discovered that all the venues were packed. So back to Warmoesstraat we went to settle for the night and we needed to hurry because the cafés and bars had closed their doors—leaving only the people already inside to cater for!
Hill Street Blues was our welcome retreat again, still offering an upbeat atmosphere and music. We didn’t dance, but played hilarious games of pool. We knew the bar staff after all these weeks, and they even gave us free drinks, adding to the happy New Year! Definitely one of our most memorable nights in Amsterdam, it would have been perfect with a big group of friends.
We bounced home around 5.30 am and sat up for a while playing euchre, which was very, very funny because our minds weren’t on the job and Julie is always so funny after a big night! In the end, we fell into a lovely sleep, even though the bells of Amsterdam tunelessly chimed continually for an hour! Luckily, we were so tired sleep came soundly and happily after a huge night, well-deserved!
We found a simple Deli and soon realised how expensive everything was, so we resigned to buying a simple toasty each. Following lunch, we had a drink at The Grasshopper—the flashy double-storied coffee shop beside the first main canal across from Central Station—and decided that Café 36 was less commercialised and more homely for our tastes with its lounges and cruiser atmosphere. Then we went home for a well-deserved but very cold afternoon sleep in the midst of an European winter, still amazed we were finally in another world.
A couple of hours later, we woke to chiming church bells that sounded beautiful, setting the scene for a gorgeous evening in this historic city. The old buildings and tiny, narrow cobbled stone streets made it so quaint, as did the Dutch people who seemed welcoming. The cute canals with their entwining bridges, the colourful streetlights, and the network of shops fronts all combined to create a magical backdrop for our first night on the town. We went to dinner on ‘the card’ at a pizza place, where the food was okay, and the service better. Dutch people have an interesting way we discovered at dinner. At first they are aloof but once you connect eyes and make contact, their warmth comes flooding through.
Afterwards, we visited The Greenhouse Effect, a coffee shop on our street, where we drank hot chocolate and played some pool, which was much easier here because the pool-sticks were shorter and thicker—easier to control than the standard sticks I knew, and the knew—and holes were bigger and the tables smaller. Cory had more trouble than Julie and me because he played skilled pool on the tables in Australia and England. Cory performed most things with great skill, so it was funny having this unexpected edge on him, until he became accustomed to it.
Then we left to call Louise at a telephone shop to let Dad know we had arrived and our money was not going to last. It certainly wasn’t… Julie even had to leave her watch as temporary payment for the two and a half minute call because it came to an outrageous amount. We didn’t realise it would cost so much and were beginning to sense that we’d be in very big trouble soon! It was so, so cold here, much colder than London, and we didn’t have gloves, no warm jackets—especially Julie. She didn’t even have a jacket and none of us had warm under things—oops-a-daisy! Thank God, Julie bought that jumper at Oxford University, and why didn’t we take the wonderfully warm jacket Paul had offered us… thinking we’d have bought new ones by now.
We survived the very cold evening in the damp, smelly place we called home-for-a-night and gratefully got our stuff together to move all the way across to the other side of the road to The Hotel Kabul: a heated hotel charging only f26 more for the three of us, with windows overlooking the beautiful canal opposite Central Station. Lovely warm/clean showers welcomed us, so we enjoyed one then dressed, and Cory and I went to try our luck on the local Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) … but unfortunately, no worldwide bank had money for us!
Luckily, we had some American dollars and a 5000 Greek bank note our Greek friends had given us in London as a souvenir. I didn’t want to exchange it, except we had no choice, and only got some measly amount in return, but it meant food for the day for the three of us. We then searched downtown Amsterdam, which, we discovered meant the city centre, for the main Post Office to call Louise reverse charge to tell her we definitely needed some money for a few days accommodation.
Although Louise didn’t understand the extent of our situation, she still couldn’t offer any support, not being the bread winner in her family. Louise had the ‘fairytale’ experience of going directly from family home into a wealthy lifestyle, never knowing the feeling of paying rent, bills, and trying to make ends meet. She couldn’t know the desperation within our voices, and for that reason, we didn’t consider the fairytale situation as ideal. Cory called his mum and dad too, who were more familiar with such difficulties. They didn’t even know we were here, and promised to help us out financially for the weekend.
After the phone call, we walked the streets and came across The Bulldog Café. We didn’t think it looked like the one everybody raved about, and once inside we heard that there were a number of Bulldogs in Amsterdam. Even though we couldn’t afford to buy anything in this one on this day except a ham and cheese toasty for f2.75 each, we planned to go in search of them, with their distinctive cow hide stool covers and Rastafarian colours. Café 36, still our favourite coffee shop thus far, was our next stop for a relaxing puff and then we went back to our warm, welcoming room.
Following a little rest and a round of dice, we went for pasta at Doria—the cheapest food joint we could find. Feeling spoilt and lavished by the simple process of eating hearty food, I gave my MasterCard to the woman at the counter to pay for the f47 meal, but it wasn’t authorised and I had to leave my watch as security. Second one down. We called MasterCard when we got home to ensure the charge wouldn’t cause my card to be cancelled, because that disastrous event would have left us with no way of getting any money to us, and thankfully, it was okay. Whatever money that went in from Australia could be pulled out. I then rang Dad (who had rung 1½ hours earlier but missed us), and told him of our desperate situation, moneywise, and he said he’d do his best to round up $500 to do us for the weekend. He was also going to put in an urgent call to Hope in search of The Mystery Men with our credit cards. I loved speaking to Dad from Amsterdam, hearing his voice was comforting.
We went to Café 36 again to play one round of pool, sip water, and have a smoke, needing to get out of the hotel because they were having an all night party with extremely loud techno music directly below our room downstairs. We would have gone down but it cost a very unfair f25 each—considering we were directly above the DJ box, and they didn’t honour the hotel’s day staff who had assured when we booked in that we’d get in free because of our room’s location. No such luck and back in the room, we listened to the downstairs’ commotion laughing as the windows and lockers in our room rattled and shook to the vibrations… videoing some of it. It wasn’t too hard to sleep with cotton wool in our ears and we woke with only minor headaches, feeling like we really had been at the party. Julie especially, as her bed shook all night!
On the move again, not wishing to risk another night in that place, we journeyed all the way across the narrow road to the Eten and Drinken at No 7. Third time lucky, this was a humble but cosy hotel with four single beds filling most the room and a view of Warmoesstraat making it worth the price; slightly cheaper than last night’s noisy room. We dumped our bags and headed off to the bank first thing, only to have our hopes dashed on arriving there to discover that we couldn’t draw out the $840 Westpac had advised when I called at 10.30, an hour earlier.
So I called Westpac again, and initially the attendant said we had only $200 available, which would have been the end of us. With a silent heart shifted to my stomach, I asked her to check again because that amount wasn’t possible. Plenty was there, they told me less than two hours earlier, and I turned to Julie and Cory with a slightly bedazzled expression, not wanting to worry them just yet. Moments later, the attendant apologised and confirmed $600 was available. Relieved, I told them of the narrow escape, and we gratefully pulled out the money, returning to our hotel to pay three nights accommodation, have a lovely hot shower, and raced off to collect our watches, and look for the Hash & Marijuana Museum, having heard so much about it.
The Museum was too pricey for the three of us, so we headed back up in the direction we came, towards Dam Square to look for another Bulldog café. Unable to find any after some searching, we asked a guy walking along the street for directions, who said there were only two Bulldogs, and the main one was a tram ride away. Off we went on our first tram ride through quirky Amsterdam, and disembarked finding the café easily, near a town square.
The Bulldog Palace was this Bulldog’s name, and it appeared more conservative on the outside than the Rastafarian painted Bulldog we’d found yesterday, although it had the same cool atmosphere from the moment we walked down the stairs into the heart of the café. We ordered drinks; cup-of-tea for me and a beer each for Julie and Cory because they cost the same, and we went back upstairs to sit at tables in the enclosed glass room to watch the activity outside. This was the entertainment part of town with cute courtyards in front of buildings for people to perform music and song, which would be ideal for summer merriment. However, on this freezing day, a group of people were actually out there busking, but they soon came in and joined us at our table to warm up and chat. They were friendly Australians, and we talked with them about Amsterdam and reminisced about home. After smoking some joints, we bid farewell, saying we would try to meet up with them at the do they invited us to that evening.
Money too tight to mention, we didn’t really plan to go, and instead struck gold that evening at Dirty Nelly’s, an Irish pub serving hamburgers and chips at a decent price! A nice bar too, with large oak tables upstairs and downstairs, and that hearty, lovely Irish cheer. With full, happy bellies, we left that pub knowing we’d be back, and went window shopping around our vicinity.
It wasn’t long before we caught on… Sex shops positioned prominently along our street quickly made it clear that the infamous girls in the windows were just around the corner, behind Warmoesstraat, the very street we were living on. We couldn’t believe it; not realising we were actually in the Red Light district, because our street was so cute and old-worldly. The side streets were glowing with colourful lights as well—going hand-in-hand with drawing bees to honey.
We saw women in lingerie standing nonchalantly in small rooms in front of windows, looking severely undressed for the climate; men standing in slightly opened doorways negotiating the price, letting the winter in. Big black women, women of all types, shapes and sizes, we saw, but it was too dark and cold to take in the sights for long. We couldn’t see much, I was a bit too embarrassed really to look; however, we got the general idea and hurried home instead to get warm and have a bedtime smoke, stopping first for hot chocolates at The Greenhouse Effect on the way.
SNOW COVERED THE STREETS when we woke the next morning, thrilled at the discovery. Cory had never seen snow, so we videoed it from our window, enchanted by the beauty of lightly falling snowflakes resting on the dirty road below. Today was the day we were to meet the Mystery Men: Mr Amet and Mr Phillips. So, without being overly excited or too expectant, we casually made our way downstairs to Eaten n Drinken’s restaurant, ordered hot drinks, and played cards at our table for nearly three hours…
‘Of course, they aren’t coming,’ we affirmed to each other, jokingly yet seriously, accustomed now to let downs and disappointments. Even still, whenever two men stepped through the entry door, we’d cry out, ‘Oh, here they are now,’ amusing ourselves yet hopeful all the same. We would stand up sometimes as if to go greet them, but slowly our humour faded and we dragged ourselves away from obvious disappointment, to visit the Irish pub for a meal of cheap and very tasty jacket potatoes!
Happy bellies make happy hearts and we visited the Greenhouse Effect to get even happier, despite our unhappy circumstances. A friendly American guy there wanted to share everything with us, he bought us a drink each and shared his smoke, but we didn’t want to appear too needy and left for Café 36 to play pool and sit around, meeting other friendly foreigners. The wonderful distraction of meeting new and interesting people filled our evening helping us forget our dire situation.
The situation was suddenly direr than we realised. At the back of our minds and deep in our hearts, we thought we could call on wealthy family members if the situation got too bad. But I had rung our brother-in-law earlier to ask for help if Dad’s money didn’t come through, telling him we were truly stuck and this could not go on.
‘So when are you coming home?’ Ian immediately asked.
I explained that Cory and I didn’t have a return ticket, unlike Julie, because we intended to spend up to two years living and working in London.
Nothing further was said, except Ian put three-year-old Bianca on the line who exclaimed, ‘Santa’s coming soon’ in the cutest voice, sending me to tears. Oh, to be in the safety of our Aussie festive season… to be a financially functioning, warm and abundantly fed, human again. We were certainly getting a taste of what a huge portion of the world’s deprived people might feel every moment of their waking lives. More than character building, this was undeniably soul building!
Julie and I woke at 5.30 am to call Dad, worried about our financial/survival situation. Not hearing from us yesterday, Dad had been thinking no news is good news, and was most upset the men didn’t turn up or call! Gravely, he told us Hope and the parties involved swear his money would happen tomorrow. He also stated that we had problems if it didn’t. We said to each that it would be the cruellest thing to happen to our Dad if it went wrong… a crime!
Later in the morning, we ventured only a couple of streets around the corner and stumbled on the original Bulldog cafe! This quickly became our favourite café because it had a downstairs area with comfortable lounges for watching videos. With the room to ourselves, the three of us were in our glory, watching a movie as we smoked a jay! Cool and cosy. Cheap and cruisy! We left before wearing out our welcome—not buying drinks or smoko, coming equipped with our own bottles of water and pot purchased from another café.
To fill the rest of the day, we found another coffee shop called Speak Easy, where we played cards and had another joint. Cory and I had finally convinced Julie to learn how to play euchre. We’d been settling for silly games involving the entire deck, with inane names as ‘asshole’ and ‘oh shit’. Eventually, Julie succumbed to the look of desperation and sheer boredom on Cory and my faces, and decided to tackle the comparatively higher skilled and harder game of euchre. In no time, she mastered the trumps and the bowers and began beating us at our game. Beginners luck, we called it, elated Julie was playing a game that truly helped time fly.
In the midst of a game where Julie was winning again, an Egyptian man came over to learn about our origins and make our acquaintance. He invited us to one of his favourite spots, and ready for anything—for any kind of distraction from our own creative ventures, we followed him to a huge Mediterranean style café called Rocco’s, to sit together and listen to music. Amsterdam was abundant with such places.
After an hour of soaking up the surroundings and talking with our new friend, we went to our newly-found friendly Italian game place filled with pool tables. We played Dutch pool for another couple of hours—Cory winning most the games, and went home early with cheap lovely cheese rolls, and yummy hot chips with a sweet sauté sauce. ‘Found budget food at last at the one-guilder hole in the wall!’ Cheese rolls, eggs, and various other small and strange food items you could buy on slotting one guilder (f1) through a slot in the outer wall of the take-away shop. We would also buy hot chips inside the shop where the ‘friendly guilder-man’, (the ‘friendly golden-man’—Dutch translation) as we came to call him, would pour generous servings of sweet sauté on top of the chips, making our smiles wide with gratitude.
We had many days coffee shopping, finding cafés indicated in the Mellow Pages, a guide Cory happily found on a table in the original Bulldog. Finding cafés with interesting extras, such as hexagon tables—six-sided pool tables that you can slowly turn for your turn, making the balls move somewhat. A difficult, funny game because the balls, holes, and cues, were the same size as the rest-of-the-world and the movable table caused the balls to move… but the café had no room to play on the other side of the table, so we eventually gave up and played cards inside the lovely, warm atmosphere of Sunny Corner café. With a name like that it seemed to be offering sun all day. At least the name of the café prompted us to imagine the sun as we rarely saw it in Europe’s mid winter! Following cards, we found the Speak Easy café was offering entertainment, so we stayed there for a couple of hours watching MTV, playing dice, comfortable and relaxed in another new atmosphere, returning to our hotel in the early evening after a full day of simple, free diversions.
Next morning, Dad called with news that the money had been adjourned to December 6, a week away. Until then, Hope would get $250 000, $100 000 of which would go to Dad to pay his bills, helping him to get on top of things, as well as look after us in such a very, very cold part of the world! Everything else would follow from this he was told, and we would be able to breathe easy again, especially Dad.
We celebrated this news by treating ourselves to an hour canal cruise costing f11 each. The cruiser had windows all around for viewing the scenic trip, and was centrally heated, giving us the joyous thrill of being outdoors in Amsterdam yet still warm and cosy. I videoed much of the picturesque journey through a number of Amsterdam’s 100 canals moving under many of its 1000 bridges, cruising by narrow high homes, so narrow (sometimes only a door’s width) furniture is hoisted up into their high windows to get it in. We saw another side of Dutch life away from the street living focus as many people lived in floating homes, and we even spotted a floating coffee shop, as we motored along. Coffee shop spotting and visiting was our primary activity here, so we visited this place on foot the next day.
This floating café aptly called, the Floating T Boat, had a cute and cosy boat-like atmosphere in which we smoked, played heaps of cards, ate our one-guilder take-away rolls, and met another American guy called Mike.
Very unassuming in appearance, Mike looked like a ‘bogan’—a ‘westie’ stereotype us Aussies gave to roughish-looking guys in flannelette tops and dark clothes living in Sydney’s western suburbs. But oh, how looks can be deceiving! On closer inspection, we saw that he was reading a mathematics book. Yes, reading mathematics. He had flown over from the US to study for major mathematics exams, and described studying algebra and heaps of mathematics equations as reading a story—and marijuana helped with the process, he said. (Smoking marijuana seemed smart after all!) We were in awe of his unassuming brilliance and enjoyed his company for the rest of the day. It was his last full day in Amsterdam, and our clever mathematician, devised a way to hide his manmade bong in a certain spot for us to collect in the morning.
We kept ourselves amused, housed, and fed for the next few days, and over the weekend, waiting for Dad’s money to come through on Monday. We missed the annual spectacular Marijuana World Cup Awards on Saturday because it cost f30 each, so we resigned to coffee shop shopping, playing games—pool, dice, or cards, and watching movies at the Bulldog. What we hadn’t resigned ourselves to, was waiting for Dad’s troubling money any longer. But resign we did, taking it in our stride when he told us on Monday morning that his subsidiary money would not be going in until midnight Oz time, and he would call later that night to let us know if this actually happened.
Alas, he did not call and we went to bed many hours later, assuming it had been put off again. Poor Daddy, we cried. He rang early in the morning to say that a portion of the money would be in his account on Friday and all of it on Tuesday. Our cards were in Sydney, and they would be sent to us after Hope’s money was through (as we knew would happen ages ago). Dad asked us if we wanted to move on—to Germany, for example, and to find out how much money we would need. We preferred to stay until Tuesday anyway, so that solved that problem.
OTHER THAN THE MONEY coming through, our concern was in finding locations of solace. For example, we were beginning to wear out our welcome in our favourite Bulldog where we watched movies downstairs on comfy couches. We went there Monday afternoon after our most recent disappointment in hope of catching an afternoon escape, but a guy told us we had to buy drinks, so we bought one and left soon after, missing the movie. It was so hard being in Amsterdam without money. Everything was so expensive, especially when living on only f100 a day to spend and f105 on our room. After buying two grams of smoko a day—a small portion to share between three of us—for no more than f25, we had less than f30 a day each. The average meals are f16 and drinks were pricey. Whiling the day away here was hard without money.
To try to remedy this situation we went in search of cheaper accommodation the next day. At VVV, where people go for travel help, we discovered our hotel was a bargain compared to others. Ours was f35 per person per night and others were f40-60 for cheap and shared lodgings. Our cute, noisy, little room on top of a busy street was suddenly very appealing.
That evening, we had our first meal in the Eten n’ Drinken’ restaurant—finally living up to the hotel’s name, and felt honoured to eat there, happy to know we were living in the most affordable place for us.
We filled the days between not knowing much about the money situation and finding out not much more about it, with doing various other things besides coffee shop shopping. One day we jumped on a tram to see where it would take us, and travelled into suburbia with its big buildings and built up sprawling spaces. We preferred our return journey as we were no longer sitting backwards in the tram—which gave us headaches—and enjoyed seeing great old museums and galleries, the streets and houses looked prettier as we neared the city again.
We took another day walking through the streets of the Red Light District behind us, finding it more welcoming in the daylight. And safer too, because we realised the girls’ presence offered eyewitness protection against street crimes. Amsterdam was one of Europe’s safest cities, as women weren’t afraid to return home alone at night, and violent crimes were rare. Legalised marijuana use certainly did seem a way to reduce the world’s crime.
We were harassed somewhat only by the occasional man offering us, ‘Hash, cocaine, or ecstasy for the ladies’, or a crack addict rushing to us from a side street asking for a light, which he would use to heat up the alfoil in his hands with heroine in it and inhale. After seeing why they wanted a lighter, we stopped giving them one, and we usually had only matches, so we would receive a gruff protest (hands thrown in the air, guttural sounds emitting from exasperated lungs) before they would rush off to ask the next person for a lighter!
During this waiting time, it was also Cory’s 23rd birthday on December 4, so we made the most of it and visited Cory’s selection of favourite cafés from the Mellow Pages, enjoying Happy Hour at Rick’s Café—big jugs of beer for Cory and Julie, and a Strongbow Cider and blackcurrant juice for me. We got very merry there, Cory even played pinball, and we went home after Happy Hour ended at six, with only f50 between us for Sunday the 5th, which was Mum’s birthday and St Nicola’s Day in Netherlands. St Nicolas is the patron saint of children (among other things), and it’s a day of gift-giving and surprises.
She was at Louise’s when we rang reverse charge in the morning. We hadn’t spoken for a month, so it was a beautiful present for all of us. We even shared a roast dinner across the miles. Mum uncomfortably affirmed to us that she had just eaten a customary roast for her birthday; and later that day we happily bought a roast each on credit downstairs in our Eaten n Drinken’ restaurant. It was almost as if we’d shared dinner with Mum, except I didn’t like the dark, fatty lamb, as Mum wouldn’t have either, not really a lover of meat… I loved the potatoes and vegies, as I was still predominantly vegetarian, which was cost effective in the mornings when I’d order fruit for breakfast and Cory and Julie had bacon and eggs instead… As it was peak winter, this was not a smart thing to do! My diet came from Fit for Life—a book designed for warm climates. I was living in a part of freezing, cold Europe, situated six metres below sea level and I did not think to adjust my diet to warming foods accordingly. I was invincible, still!
What warmed none of us was the situation Dad was going through. He called on Monday to say Hope had been put off to Wednesday. Julie was booked to fly home 11 December—five days away, and she couldn’t miss that flight if the money was not coming through soon. On Wednesday, Dad called to say the picture was looking good, Hope was finally gaining access to the cards, and he would be picking up his on Friday. We all prayed for it to be true. Julie delayed her flight.
WITH THINGS LOOKING UP, we caught a video at our favourite Bulldog with the downstairs video and lounge room. A good, cosy, time-wasting activity everyone was happy about because we had money to buy drinks. Afterwards, we cruised over to the Easy Speaking café where we played cards and watched MTV, going home at 4.30 pm with cheese rolls for dinner. Julie and Cory had had bouts of the cold over the past few days, so I was happy to be home early fighting off the beginnings of one that never came.
Dad didn’t call on Friday. I called MasterCard to see if any money had been put in, the amount letting us know the situation. Our friend Karla, in Australia, had put in $400 dollars. She was such a sweetheart doing this for us. No more money was in there, so we assumed Dad had been put off again until Monday. So, we were in for another weekend, (our fourth) in Amsterdam with not much money!
Saturday morning: just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did! The 400 Karla put in went towards fixing up my credit limit. Now, we had barely any money for the weekend. 30 guilders was absolutely all of it until Monday, and that was only if Dad had money to give us on Monday! Unbelievable bad luck! To try to rectify this, we went in search of a pawn broker; but, as we walked we already knew, pawn brokers were only open on weekdays. It really was another exciting weekend without moolah for us…
Cory handed over his watch again that evening. We decided to try to keep the cash we had for the weekend, and have a decent—but still cheap—meal for a change. The restaurant we went to on our first night was on our hit list because we thought it didn’t have a proper online machine, but naturally, for us, it was online tonight. 43 guilders to pay on Monday, plus heaps of money owed on our room, meant we wouldn’t have much left money wise—if—the money still wasn’t through. And that couldn’t be humanly possible, we pleaded with God.
We knew Sunday was going to be a hard one. We knew it would be and so were fairly prepared for anything, but I wasn’t prepared for my worst ever booming headache! I was happy to lay in bed and not move my head, but Julie and Cory had me up playing a bit of cards, which made it sort-of go away. Our diet for the whole day was chips and cheese rolls, and Dad was extremely dismayed to hear this when he called and heard we didn’t have money for any proper food. Worse than hearing us upset, was hearing Dad disheartened, and Julie and I demanded for this to STOP!|
To be continued ...
The best things in life are free and we made the most of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, only a couple of blocks away. A group of us took a small portion of a mind altering substance and headed off in a happy state bearing the ‘beloved’ video camera Cory and I bought on duty free in Perth before we flew out.
The sky was blue and the sun quite warm, as we drank hot chocolates beside the large pond with green-beaked wood ducks, which we’d tried to become acquainted with when they were waddling on the bank. We delighted over squirrels dashing in our path, scurrying to safe hiding spots. The elvan tree with numerous painted carvings of elves, fairies, and goblins transfixed us, and after adventuring around the park and gardens, we lazed in the sun on blankets taking in the crispy breeze mixed with the lukewarm sunrays. During this time, Cory, Paul, and Juzzi climbed a huge oak tree in the middle of a luscious green clearing, which I had no inclination to climb, happy enough to take photos while Julie videoed.
After having fun in the sun, we headed home to get ready for Villa Stephano. Before leaving, we watched our funny video footage just filmed, took some more still shots of all of us with wide smiles beaming on our faces from doing something out of ordinary routine, freshened up, and then caught the tube to Holborn Station, venturing underground to the day-club.
As we walked downstairs, the heat, the vibes, and the pumping music hit us instantly. People were dancing and moving about, seriously partying for the love of life, and for some maybe to escape from it. We were happy to escape from it for a while, and found our corner by the fan to dance. Sarah—our dear party friend from Sydney who we met through Paul, joined us, together with Greek friends she met on a recent holiday in Greece who were on their last night out in London. They were off to Amsterdam the next day and we planned to meet them there, but as the money hadn’t come through, we were in London for at least another week.
My big toes were very sore after so much dancing in those ill-fitting boots by the time we returned to our small room—newly named the cesspit. I happily rested them while we smoked, ate, and talked together sharing good vibes. I loved the Greek crew—Isadora, Constantine, and Sarkiss. So gorgeous! If I wasn’t with Cory, Sarkiss and I would have probably kissed. The attraction was so strong; I thought for sure, Cory would see me falling into Sarkiss’ alluring bright blue eyes, as he drew me in with penetrating Greek god stares. Again, Cory showed no signs of mistrust. My heart swelled in appreciation of his wise non-reactions, but I also wondered why he didn’t try to possess me. Never questioned him about it, I was thrilled to have such harmless freedom and his precious trust.
WE WOKE EARLY the next day feeling a little foggy to Dad ringing with the latest news. Money will be in our accounts on Wednesday and the rest would definitely be coming through next Monday. Please, please, please, we prayed!
With that news and a visit from Sarah—who lived a level down from us in a tiny room under the stairs—we decided to take a bus to Oxford for the day. An hour journey through lush green English countryside dotted with age-old character homes, to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, over 800 years old.
One huge impressive university was what we expected to see on reaching Oxford, but instead we found 39 independent colleges and halls, and realised Oxford was an entire little city. Stunning architecture, ancient and modern colleges, fascinating halls, museums, and galleries we didn’t get to see, and plenty of parks and gardens. We walked along quaint streets on cobbled pavements to find the Open Top Bus Sightseeing Tour. Then, we journeyed round the city taking in the architecture and heritage in an elevated position, canopied by the blue-skied, sunny day, with a touch of wind.
The sheer walls and imposing gates to many of the buildings were captivating, and the stone carved gargoyles sitting on top of gates and the sides of buildings looked like petrified trolls warning us away. We were comfortably away, videoing our views from the open bus. Sitting at the back of the bus, Donna—another Aussie friend on a London working holiday, jigged to music through an earpiece of a walkman and Julie also jigged along listening through the other earpiece. Sarah sat to their left, while Cory and I sat one seat in front videoing. Everyone enjoyed glasses of white wine as we moved along… I think I managed one glass. I rarely drank wine unless with a meal, the taste was so sour to me, and the effect sluggish as well as giddying.
We poured off the bus when the tour finished and enjoyed a little lunch in a simple yet historic stonewall cafe. The day was flying by too quickly, so after visiting a gift shop where I bought an Oxford t-shirt (I end up wearing to its death) and Julie a small Oxford jumper, we ventured into a clock tower for our last stop and climbed an inner stairwell surrounding the giant clock, to the top of the building with 360 degree views. Taking in the history of the vicinity was difficult for me at 22. I looked and saw, but wasn’t in awe as I would have been with just a few more years of living under my belt. The enormity of time passed since this land evolved didn’t mean as much to me being so young and naive. The reality was now; still I was very grateful we went to Oxford as we rested in the bus seat on our way home to London, watching the world go by until it turned dark.
* * *
Two days later, Cory had his MasterCard ripped in half before our eyes! We went down the road to Europa shopping centre, to buy dinner on credit and a few necessities—Julie and Cory were going halves. Julie purchased her half of things okay, but Cory was not so lucky. The shop attendant was required to take his card when it showed up as heavily overdrawn, which was particularly upsetting to us because things were just about to be fixed up on Dad’s end.
All week, Dad was beside himself because Hope went into hospital with a sudden brain complication, so she couldn’t go to Sydney to finalise everything with the bank. Now we were hoping on Monday, if Hope is okay, and Dad is hoping he’s getting the true picture.
Dad didn’t call on Monday. We called Louise’s reverse charge to hear the bad news. Everything had been postponed to Wednesday. Poor Dad was down in the dumps. Very outrageous—he had been waiting all year, put off all year, climbing the wall all year, and now he had to reassure his travelling daughters! For the sake of his mental health, we prayed for it to be this week; otherwise, he’d be hearing us scream from this side of the world and would probably sky-rocket over here from aggravation!
In my diary, Cory wrote:
‘Well I’ve got full confidence in Lenny, so all I can do is laugh at the situation and hope the sun shines through soon. (There are not many interesting videos left!) Anyway, I’m not working, I don’t have any appointments, and I’m in a foreign country! What a Life, and I’m sharing it with My Darling! (And, of course Jules who’s a good beer buddy and card shark!) Cory’
And, from Julie and Paul.
‘Yes, we are still stuck in London waiting for much needed money and then the holiday will really begin. Amsterdam first and then who knows! But, we are managing to have fun: videos, big sleep-ins, organising what to eat for dinner, and cards and beer are our daily routine. Fingers crossed for this Thursday. Julie x J’
‘Down but not out – Paul’
On Wednesday, we had progress at last! Dad called with a favourable change of plans. Zurich Bank would be giving Julie, Cory, and me two credit cards to use, as we liked, without budget: one card for food, accommodation, entertainment, etc, the other for our own means. Our plans to buy a campervan vanished as we were now to fly to Zurich, Switzerland to collect the cards, and then fly and train it everywhere. Sounded so tough—we hoped it was true! As we were supposedly leaving the next Tuesday, we began fervently praying that they wouldn’t let us down again! It would be a holiday of a lifetime and Julie wouldn’t need to return to Oz on her due date! We were so happy, but stayed in our room all day due to no funds… watching videos though, as Cory managed to get the manor house’s spare one working!
Dad called the following day to reaffirm yesterday’s fantastic news, making it more of a reality. He’d also placed money in Clinton’s account for us to live on until Tuesday, as ours were choc-a-block with overdrawn credit. We walked half an hour along windy walkways and streets abundantly coated with orange, green, and gold autumn leaves to Shepherd’s Bush to collect it, and have sandwiches with our generous friend. Clinton was a real sweetheart, helping us through our money problems. He walked back to Notting Hill Gate with us, watched a video, and enjoyed one of our cook ups… sharing the routine we hoped would soon end, even though we had been very comfortable and relaxed during our stay, for the most part.
THE WEEKEND WAS AN EXCITING PRELUDE to our new beginnings. Cory and I had our two year anniversary on Friday night and we dined at a romantic Italian restaurant in Notting Hill Gate while Julie went for a roast dinner at a pub with Paul. On Saturday, we visited Windsor Castle with Stephen and his dynamic friend Keeley, as he wanted to show us around his beloved England as much as possible before we left.
We saw the castle in all its English glory, although one of the wings had endured a recent fire. After I posted mail to Mum and Nan from inside its walls, we headed off to Henley-on-Thames. One large cream tea later, we drove to a charming little English Village by the name of Sonning—famous for its Sonning Lock device on the River Thames for raising and lowering boats between stretches of the river’s different water levels. This was the civilised part of the adventure, seeing how cultured country folk lived in a town described as ‘the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river’. Everything was so picturesque, I truly felt like I stepped into a novel. And, then Stephen took us to the pub: The Star in Waltham Street, St Lawrence to experience pool, pinball, and Poms, as he put it! We spent a wee bit of time there until it was time to explore Maidenhead further, where we took in more of England’s glory.
Our day’s outing was topped off by a visit to Glendevon Road, London’s Reflex gay nightclub, where we danced and absorbed the vibes, all of us having a good time, loving being a part of London nightlife. I fell in love with the extended dance version of Constant Craving by K D Lang that night, feeling it was very real regarding the current money and love connection level in my life. Cory and I were together; I loved him dearly, but wished we had a constant passionate connection. We were more like best friends when we were out, but I wanted the world to see I was in love, young enough to let it show. Cory’s love was affectionately inexpressive, and although I knew he loved me deeply—showing it in his own way—part of me needed more. Hence, I secretly craved a deeper connection. Not realising the absolute beauty of his love.
Stephen and Keeley bunked in our room in the early hours of Sunday morning, and we woke very contented by our weekend, excited about our dreams coming true on Tuesday. I promised to send my special Stephen a postcard from every country we visited when we bid a big, warm goodbye that day!
* * *
Dad called early Monday morning. Everything was still going ahead on Wednesday. Switzerland here we come! We decided to celebrate at Limelight nightclub on Shaftesbury Avenue, London—a former church dating back to 1754. This spectacular gay venue was amazing with its high cathedral ceiling, and elevated side stalls to look down over the dance floor bursting with throbbing, pulsating people moving to music.
I tried to get into it. Cory and I tried to get into it. But, for some reason we weren’t in the party mood. I felt a bit sick and didn’t know what caused it—making this the third time I ruined the potential to have a great night out.
The first was the sprained ankle/moped mishap in Thailand and the second was only a month after arriving in London when I sprained my ankle when Julie, Cory, Sarah, Juzzi, and I were heading into Soho to meet a friend. I was munching on a tuna sandwich when I tripped over a low London curb on the way. I now had two bad ankles after the falls, and the Happy Hour five pound jugs at the O Bar in Soho I hobbled to, didn’t take the pain away. After cheap pasta at the Stockpot later that day, I hobbled on home, and stayed in with Cory, while Julie, Juzzi, Paul, and Sarah went to Heaven nightclub to dance the night away. We’d been looking forward to going to this club everyone had been raving about, but my ankle stopped me, and Cory’s beautiful heart stopped him, by willingly staying with me. Paul tried to talk him into going, but Cory was adamant.
At Limelight, I was wearing Juzzi’s new boots, which like Julie’s, ended up being too small for her after she’d purchased them at Camden Markets. So, I tried them on and said they were right for me since they fit better than Julie’s tight ones, and gave Juzzi the 30 pounds. They were short black leather boots with thick high heels, and it didn’t take me long to realise they were half a size too big, with very flat, non-giving inner soles, not moulding into the feet. They reminded me of ski-boots or moon-boots, and I didn’t consider the old saying of the shoes maketh the man and thought they looked cool anyway.
Everyone had enough fun at Limelight to compensate for Cory and me, so we went home feeling the celebratory vibrations, but not participating in them as we usually did. We fell asleep and woke to a call from Dad the next morning informing us we wouldn’t be leaving until Thursday now. Although we were slightly disappointed, we were too tired to stress after our night out.
We arose from our beds at midday and tried to get into our accustomed routine. But I was still out of sorts, and officially hit my lowest point for the first time. Boredom hit home! To make matters worse, we no longer had the TV, and it was then we needed it most! Sarah came to visit later in the night, saving us (especially me) from insanity!
Backpack sorting spiced up the next day. First mission was to sort out our clothes—the things we were taking and the things we were leaving with Paul. Next, was to organise food for the day and then write what I hoped to be my last lot of London postcards this time round. In the evening, we took Julie to the Italian restaurant Cory and I went to for our anniversary. We had enough money in Julie’s account to tide us over to tomorrow we thought, but when she handed it over, she never got it back. Not enough in it to pay for dinner and was heavily overdrawn! The charge of the meal now also awaited tomorrow’s deposit.
I woke the next morning to the phone ringing and as guessed, it was Dad. We wouldn’t be going anywhere today, maybe tomorrow. Unfortunately, the news was too hard for me to bear and I cried. Poor Dad, this was so hard on him, but we were so stranded, it wasn’t funny. New people were waiting to move into our room and our landlady was getting frustrated. And, we had no money.
As a last resort, Cory and I went into Piccadilly Circus to exchange French francs our cousin Michelle gave us, when we met up with her in London during our first month. During our tube ride there, I reminisced about times I’d had with Michelle. She was my horsy cousin who lived in Brisbane when I was growing up. I adored her for taking me out riding when I was eight and ten, when visiting her family on holidays. She’d double me behind her saddle all day with her friends. We’d ride through the outskirts of Brisbane and I’d get a sore bum after the long days on her lovely, grey horse Lightening. I considered those days as when my love of horses first developed.
Sadly, my joy from these buoyant memories quickly departed when we arrived at the Exchange Centre to discover it had closed by five minutes, as we had no money to get home. After a few misroutes, many passing young men on sidewalks calling, ‘Any spare change please’ to whom we now understood their plight, we found our way to Paul’s work and borrowed enough money for a tube ride home and a sandwich…
DAD CALLED THE FOLLOWING DAY with a hopeful update. We would be receiving the cards on Monday, and leave for our holiday directly from London, instead of flying to Switzerland first. Mr Amet, from the Bank of Switzerland (Zurich), called Hope and apologised for not getting to us sooner, stating he would be with us on Monday. We hoped, and stayed in all day (standard procedure), watched TV (we got it back), and had a yummy pasta dinner (usual cook-up). Not doing it too tough, especially with good friends around.
But on Monday, our wish didn’t come true. Tuesday afternoon was more promising, Dad was told. Apparently, a restriction on our cards needed removing. Poor Dad had had enough. Even doubting what he was being told, and all he had was 20 years of trust in Hope, who wouldn’t let him down… we prayed.
… And, we played for the rest of the day. Cards, smoked, ate and laughed, all day and all night because Paul and Clinton were our visitors. Considering all our worries, we had a funny night and always made the best of our situation. Our greater problems were surreal to us; we were more worried about how our beautiful, trusting father was coping. He was from the old school, where a person’s word was solid. One of those True Human Beings anyone is blessed to meet.
Dad called Tuesday telling us the next day was a definite, so we needed to be up and ready early! But, he still said fingers crossed before saying goodbye. They were bending from so much crossing! He was to call in the evening to confirm that Hope’s deal went ahead, and if it had, everything else would fall into place.
But, he didn’t call back. We went to bed not knowing—once again—what the morning would bring. There was still no news in the morning when we shifted out of our room to Paul's and Donna’s upstairs, finally freeing the room for new people. While I was on the phone to Mum, Dad called on our original phone downstairs, to see if Mr Amet had arrived. It was already 12.15 pm and Dad expected he would be with us. We were waiting anxiously. Dad reassured he would call back in half an hour to see if he had come. Because we’d moved rooms, we stuck a big piece of paper with our new room number to the manor’s front door so Mr Amet would find us.
He didn’t come, which didn’t surprise us in the end, we would have been surprised if he came at all by this stage. Yet another call came from Dad later in the night, saying Hope had spoken to Mr Amet who had been sick, and said to tell us he is on his way. Apparently, he would like to take us to his house in Switzerland where we could stay, with a caretaker, for as long as we liked. Dad tried to reassure us and himself he was almost certain it would be tomorrow.
Thursday 4th: We are presently dressed and ready to meet Mr Amet! It is now 11.25 am please don’t let us be waiting all day! Otherwise, we will go CRAZY!
Wait all day we did! Dad called early evening to discover ‘the verdict’ and was extremely pissed off to hear we’d been forgotten once again. He called Hope to ‘blow his top’ (finally) and demand action! He also said to tell Mr Amet that he was a rude bastard for treating us this way and without even the courtesy of a phone call. ‘Good on you Daddy’, we cried to him! He deserved so much more respect, and all he expected was honesty! Expecting, also, that tomorrow would be our day! All we could do was sit and wait. If not, it was to be another weekend without pounds and further stress for Dad.
* * *
Far from getting cabin fever in our room, our pound-less weekend turned into our best one yet: starting with another outing with Stephen and Keeley! They took us to The New Forest where horses roam freely—wild and protected. The Queen owns this land, almost 300 square kilometres (74131 acres), which includes the largest remaining territory of unenclosed pasture land, heathland, and old-growth forest in heavily-populated south east England. And, French William the Conqueror did it again… He created The New Forest as a royal forest, for hunting deer, around 1080.
Shaggy horses walking nonchalantly beside the roads by themselves were a curious sight. I loved seeing them in open pastures without fencing, free to follow their fancy. Even in Burley Village, donkeys, and ponies clip-clopped through the old-fashioned village. We drove on to Milford-on-Sea, still in Hampshire, to eat hamburgers by the pebble beach sea with distance views of the Isle of Wight, and then on to visit Stephen’s Nanna, staying for a cup-of-tea before we headed back to Reading, Stephen’s home town.
Zooming along narrow streets in the green, leafy countryside, with glorious trees boarding our path, we buzzed to loud house-music pumping from the stereo in Stephen’s cherished blue car, Tallulah—named after a famous drag queen in Sydney’s Rocks. Setting the ambiance for the Firecracker Bonfire party at a friend of Stephen’s in Reading.
Backyard parties aren’t quite the same in England’s weather, but we weathered it, since we hadn’t been to a Guy Fawkes Day event since we were little (most of Australia banning it in the late 1970s to prevent misuse of firecrackers and personal injuries, and especially because of bushfire danger during hot November months). Firecrackers shot high into the sky, or whirled and dazzled, frizzed and whizzed. There was no huge bonfire to set the scene as in the old days, which would have warmed us perfectly. Julie, Cory, and I felt a little shy and out of place being the only Aussies at the party of English people, but there weren’t many people there all up anyway and as the party was only small, it ended quite early.
WE DIDN’T FEEL LIKE GOING HOME after Stephen dropped us off at the top of our street at 11 pm, but what could we do. Nothing! However, as we walked homeward, an apartment blasting, loud, cool music onto the street answered our prayers. We knocked on the door and were surprised when a tall, long-haired blonde German man with blue eyes shining on a happy face warmly ushered us in. His name was Florian and he headed off down some stairs, while we said hello to friendly people in the lounge room, who automatically accepted our presence, making us feel comfortable.
The party was downstairs, so we soon went to check it out! In a small living area, adjoining a kitchen lined with empty Vodka Absolute bottles, people were happy and dancing, and it wasn’t long before we were dancing too, compliments of a friendly Dutch guy who came to me offering an ecstasy. I accepted without hesitation, and Julie was next in line. I hoped I wasn’t pushing it when I asked if my boyfriend could have one too, but yes was the answer and the three of us looked at each other in utter amazement. We were so happy to have found this party!
Most of the people were from England and Amsterdam, everyone was so friendly, and I videoed some of it. Florian took the video off me and videoed me dancing, zooming in on my cleavage. (When my brother David saw this footage back in Australia months later, he wanted to kill him for doing that! Dave would tell me when I was younger that if anyone hurt me, just to let him know, cause he’d kill ‘em. I was sure I would never let him know if that was his promise, and I never needed to!)
The night went far too quickly. Almost everyone had left when we pulled ourselves away at 6.30 am to go home and try to sleep after the excitement of a memorable day and night! The best we had so far… such a one off, and we were invited back for more! We slept the day away on Paul and Donna’s floor, our current beds, to make up for the lost night.
* * *
By Monday, we didn’t wish to overcrowd Paul and Donna’s room any longer, so we reserved a room for Tuesday at The Hillgate Hotel, just round the corner. It was expensive, but at least we were in our own domain and out of the building that had housed us for two months! The hotel accepted my MasterCard imprint as authorisation, because they didn’t have a current eftpos machine to ascertain that I didn’t actually have money in it.
Dad was placing money in my account tomorrow—as it was the only surviving card between us, and this was only because Westpac in Australia would only give me a $500 limit when I applied after I’d ended all employment to go travelling. They gave me this only because I convinced the bank manager interviewing me that thousands of dollars would soon be in it. And, I was convincing, believing it entirely. Cory’s parents were also putting in Cory’s and my tax returns we completed before leaving Perth, so at least we had a good amount of money coming to us—approximately eight hundred between us.
We had a good day in our new hotel, so flashy compared to the manor house, and thankfully, it had a television too, but not a cooker to make our own meals. After one night, we knew we couldn’t stay long. Far too expensive, so we went in search of cheaper accommodation on Wednesday.
We walked loads, knocked on lots of doors around the surrounding area, and as the hours past, began to understand that finding cheaper accommodation was nearly impossible. Most places needed a guaranteed six months lease, and others, excessively high rates per night or week per person. On top of that, it was a rainy, cold, grey day and our spirits were very low. It was also getting dark, and just when we thought doomsday had arrived, a guy at a pub we decided to retreat to for a while suggested a youth hostel at Ladbroke Grove, around the corner! So, off we trudged to have a look at Bowen Court—a huge building like a big, old hospital from the war days. Perfect for backpackers! They had no room for the night, so we booked one for tomorrow.
Dad called that night to say the money would be happening this weekend, encouraging us to hang in there. We were hanging in there. The three of us got along so well, uplifting each other before we were even down. Laughing about it. Making up songs… like Cory’s lyric change from Frank Sinatra’s, ‘It has to be you,’ to ‘it has to be soon’, sung in a low pitch Sinatra tone that had Julie in fits of laughter. Cheery by nature, we hadn’t let any disappointments wreck our time so far, and we weren’t about to start, knowing we were lucky to be where we were at all.
Seeing how people lived on the other side of the world was rare blessing for most. We were even having the experience of being ‘down and out in London’, of looking over people’s overflowing plates as we passed by restaurant windows, of looking at menus according to price for selection… ‘Oh, the garlic bread looks nice,’ being the most we’d be able to pay in highly priced restaurants that were so similar to our typical restaurants in Australia yet half the price to dine in. We experienced looking for affordable shelter, warm clothing, for affordable everything! ‘It’s all character building,’ Stephen would reassure me, when we’d speak on the phone.
‘You’re really learning how to turn a penny twice,’ Dad said with admiration, mingled with his disappointment so far. Disappointing us was last thing he would consciously do. Dad had always been a responsible, jovial, reliable father, constantly there for us, his word solid gold. We counted on him, he never let us down… he was the hero of my life, and I know David shared the same sentiments, and Julie and Louise certainly showed it. So we believed, really believed, it had to be soon. Wishing with all our hearts this would end with everything he deserved and more given to him.
We had to depart our lovely, big room by 11 (not so easy for us used to sleeping in until then-ish) and felt renewed as we stepped into a gloriously clear, blue-skied, crispy-aired day on a new adventure. Warming sunrays were a joy as we carried our backpacks two blocks to our temporary new home—so replenishing after many days of greyness—and we settled into our huge, old, private dormitory on the second floor, with room enough for ten people. We went downstairs to a large dining room for dinner, which was kindly included in the price, and found it was like a school camp with young people filling the tables, moving around the self-serving food area. The upbeat atmosphere made us feel we were finally travelling; our trip was becoming a reality.
The meal was a stodgy mash of mushy potatoes, veges etc, but we were happy, it was free and fun, and later, the three of us played cards, watched TV in the communal TV room, and went back to our room to attempt an early sleep. Cory and I couldn’t sleep, too excited by our changing circumstances with the promise of more, so we ventured back to the TV room, talking until 3.30 am. It was beautiful, reconnecting our love for each other. I loved him so much. He was the best friend and travelling partner/lover I could wish for. I couldn’t imagine any other; we got along wonderfully most of the time. So humble and sharing was his heart, he put my feelings first and expressed himself to the fullest. He thought of us as one and wanted us to share our whole lives together. Despite our love not being colourful in openly affectionate expression, I felt the same way, believing our union was very strong, one I could trust money or no money.
FIVE MORNINGS LATER we had some good news, bringing us out of a new pattern we were forming living in London for less at Bowden Court. A routine of walking London’s streets after lunch, visiting the Portobello markets, hanging in our big room, discovering new venues like the nearby pub called The Ladbroke Grove to have a drink each and play cards in a different surrounding, finding it the warmest, cutest pub we’d seen. And, The Pub on the Corner (The Devonshire) in Nottinghill Gate where we regularly lunched eating tuna sandwiches and chips for only one pound, finding it the best yummiest bargain in London yet! Not a tough routine at all and we knew we were gaining insight into a side of life we could never have experienced at home! It’s very humbling, and real to experience the feeling of the underprivileged, although we didn’t consciously choose to experience this for altruistic purposes.
Cory and I were still sleeping when Julie entered our room saying, ‘All up, we’re off to Amsterdam’. Dad told Julie on a call she'd taken while we were asleep that it would be easier for ‘the men’ to meet us there, and we could leave today. We had been dreaming about going: cards or no cards! So we prepared ourselves… bought bus/ferry/bus Euroline tickets with our tax return money and visited Paul for a celebration brunch, leaving things we didn’t need with him, even the big grey jacket he offered us to take.
* * *
Carrying our backpacks to Victoria Station was a feat, but we survived. The bus ride took over two hours to Dover, and even in the night, we could see how white The White Cliffs of Dover were. We boarded the massive ferry with different areas and a cinema, and settled in seats, as it silently and gently ploughed through the channel. We easily adjusted to its rhythmical steady movements as we ate, played dice, and called Dad an hour and a half out of dock in the middle of the English Channel. Speaking to him from there was too amazing, thanks to technology, and afterwards we tried to sleep and succeeded somewhat as we each lay over a row of seats, needing all rest possible to be fit and healthy for the streets of Amsterdam.
Weary but eager, we reboarded the bus inside the ferry in the dark early hours of the morning, beginning our journey over Europe. The bus ride through Belgium triggered memories and frightening visions of World War II—thanks to studying Modern History at school, and even though it was very late and dark outside, I was too uncomfortable to sleep, my mind busily reflecting on the understandable fear that would have permeated this land way back then.
Happily, the sun soon rose and we were awestruck by the windmills and the flat, flat countryside! We found it strange driving on the other side of the road and seeing the necessary double-glazed windows on passing houses, and the frost on the grass and parked cars reaffirmed that we were in cold, cold, cold, Europe!
A suburb out of the centre of Amsterdam the bus finally reached its last stop, and in the icy, winded, sunny morning at a money exchange, we withdrew 175 Dutch guilders fl, which converted to 130 Aussie dollars, and then boarded a train to Centraal Station, the heart of Amsterdam.
'Centraal Station', a massive red brick building built in 1889 with a 40 metre roof span fabricated in cast iron, stood as it did during World War II. As we walked through, I contemplated the history of this building, haunted by the fact masses of innocent people moved through this place to their tortured death, only some 50 years ago. The reality was all too much to take in.
Gladly, we were met by sunshine as we stepped out of the chilly station, which warmed me greatly. My first vision of Amsterdam was seeing a multitude of bicycles parked in front of a canal before us, enchanting me instantly. It was clear we had arrived in one of the most stimulating cities on earth, a place literally drawn from the imagination. We soon discovered that there was no land here in the 13th Century. Originally, it was a region of land and marsh developed by herring fisherman who drove wooden poles into the mud and piled around whatever material they could find to make dikes, on which they erected crude huts, the city’s first houses.
So, we stood before the first canal, opposite Centraal Station, drinking in the historical, picturesque scene, with its expanse of old buildings and church towers, feeling as if we were back in time. Only the sight of the numerous bicycles reminded us we were in the 20th Century!
Ready to be amongst the Amsterdam adventure, we set off to Warmoesstraat—the street Sarah indicated on our map, and to our relief it was the first street we walked to with our backpacks mounted on our backs. Café 36, she also marked, and it was the first coffee shop we saw. Before visiting, we decided to search for a home, be freshened up for our first Amsterdam outing.
Very shoddy rooms are designated for people on small budgets, we quickly realised after a couple of enquires. The cheapest wouldn’t even allow us to look at the room before paying. We paid because it was extremely cheap for three and told ourselves we wouldn’t complain. But of course, we did! To get to our room we had to climb many stairs, and walk through a block of showers and very smelly toilets, to finally arrive into our very dirty looking cold room, with no heating. We weren’t impressed but couldn’t care; we just wanted to get out of there.
Café 36 was our first stop. The scent of marijuana smoke hit us as we stepped in the cool laid back café, a café like none of us had ever seen. Similar to a normal café, but with less tables, more couches and art deco lavished walls, Café 36 had an ambience of anything goes. Julie and I happily sat on one of the lounges near a window directly overlooking the pretty, little canal and street life of Amsterdam on the other side. We watched Cory at the pot counter, buying Crystal Skunk, a popular strain, and marvelled at how they allowed this here…
The tradition of the Dutch coffee shop goes back to the 1970s, following the pragmatic policy of non-enforcement of laws on the use and possession of cannabis introduced in 1976. Under the policy, licensed coffee shops are allowed to sell five grams of marijuana to people over 18. I loved the freedom of it. Arguably less harmful than drinking alcohol, it was my substance of choice, and I felt more aware and in control on it, than when I consumed only two or three drinks. In the years to come, the country’s 750 coffee shops—half of which are in Amsterdam, were forced to choose between serving alcohol or cannabis. Most chose cannabis.
Less than 10 minutes after Cory prepared the smoke, we had big smiles on our faces, feeling like we were home. What more could we ask for? We were in heaven. Time expanded, as we relaxed. Not many people were in the café so it was a dream place for us, seeming just for us… to kick back and take a breath of freedom. It was a place of no worries, desperately needed after the past months. We didn’t need to be anywhere, free to leave when we pleased; but eventually we worried about how our legs would manage walking when we did get up.
Finally, we made a move on slightly dazed legs, and went in search of a place for lunch. Passing the beautiful canal again, crossing tram track lines on streets, we wandered through stylish arcades with shops and people of another tongue. I was so excited to be there, to be around a very different culture, a European one. Now, we were travelling!
Oh, were we travelling… at one stage, Julie stepped onto a street too quickly causing the cutest Dutchman we were to see, run into her with his bike and nearly go travelling over his handle bars. She got a little nick, and at that moment, we decided to start smoking joints instead of water pipes (bongs), having been warned by the man at Café 36 that their smoko was much stronger through a bong. Oh no, we’re Aussies, we told him, accustomed to this method, and smoked away …
Chapter Twelve: 1993 ~~ Overseas and Misadventure
‘If you pull the strings too tight they’ll break, and if you don’t pull them tight enough they won’t play’ … The Little Buddha
Early this year, my work offered mass voluntary retrenchment packages to reduce company costs. I readily raised my hand when the Chief Executive Officer discussed the proposal, asking us to consider it carefully. The offer was available to a percentage of staff on a first-come-first-served basis and I was determined to be one of the first served, overjoyed at this unexpected release and propulsion into the future. Stephen and I had privately voiced an increasing desire to leave, but we needed motivating and the ‘early retirement’ offer was our answer! I received a tidy payout—one that looked overweight beside my formerly financially minuscule name!
Diary, April 20: I am sitting in the lounge room at our ‘Balgowlah’ home (we moved) with Cory, Luke and their beautiful mum, Sky! I am now employed at the ‘Levita Group’ (Telemarketing). I left ‘State Super’ because I was very lucky to receive the voluntary retrenchment package—just the thing Cory and I needed to get our butts into gear. We are planning to leave in August. We’re off to Europe/London, where we plan to obtain employment for a time, buy a kombi van, and travel around at our own leisure. Pretty exciting, we’ll be there before we know it. Life is just beginning! And, what a perfect partner I have to share it with! I’m very lucky and happy! Everything is going well for my whole family and me. Thank you God! Can’t wait to see The World and its People! The saddest thing about leaving State Super is leaving my Beautiful and favourite friend Stephen! Sharee will be sadly missed also, a true friend with a loving heart—oh we had fun at those all-night State Super Happy Hours! Lastly, I will miss Mr Larry Engdahl—my dear work colleague who is the same age as Dad, and who gave me so much time, wisdom, patience, and laughter, not to mention warmth and our unspoken Love during our days at work! State Super was a great experience and I will always be grateful!
It was on this day, or one near it, that Dad phoned me with exciting financial news. An investment had proved profitable for him! I was to keep this a secret until Julie’s birthday, the following week, when he would share it with Louise and Julie as it involved all his children receiving a substantial sum of money. Size enough to have a holiday of a lifetime, Dad said!
Louise and Julie were elated when Dad told them the news at lunch, but Dad was not overly happy, as he had planned to buy Julie a car for her birthday. She had always jokingly asked for one when she was younger, and he wanted to make it true, as well as give each of us a cheque of likewise proportions, with more to follow. Such a manifestation didn’t transpire, owing to difficulties at the other end. So, Dad deferred this unbelievable stroke of good fortune until next week. No problem we can wait, we sincerely stated!
I didn’t need to go back to work after lunch, so I had more drinks and a one-to-one discussion with Dad at the Waratah Hotel where Cory worked. The previous week, Dad needed a large sum of money for Hope, the woman involved in his investment. I reminded him of my large payout from State Super, saying he should have asked me for the money, and must if he ever needed it again. He had forgotten, and was grateful, but dismissed the idea because the ‘Money was coming through’.
The following week, Dad accepted my offer because Hope needed money again. Dad had known Hope for years, and in that time, had grown to trust her. I met her when I was about eight and she seemed to be a nice person, so I gave the money without thought.
During all this, the biggest exhilaration for Cory and me was our approaching overseas adventure. We were sad to be leaving Luke and Rob. We’d shared many hours in our large hip house doing what we loved—playing cards, listening to music and sharing good cheer. The four of us were a little family. Yet, our dream was overseas, and we were extra excited at the thought of meeting up with Julie and friends in London!
In anticipation and expectation of recording travelling experiences, I purchased a hard-covered black diary. On the inside cover, I inserted photographs of my family and friends, for reminiscing when home was missed.
Cory and I had saved enough money for one-way tickets to England via Bangkok where we’d pre-booked two nights in a good hotel. We had a MasterCard each and a little spending money to tide us over before the money promised to Dad came through.
Julie departed ten days before us. Following is the first entry of my diary.
Friday 6th August—it’s happening! Cory and I are at Louise and Ian’s ready to see Julie off at the airport! She is very excited, but would like one more night, it’s happened so quickly! Cory and I had vaccination shots today and we have sore bottoms. We’re slowly getting organised, but there’s so much to do and not a lot of time. Cory and I fly to Perth on Monday 16th, where we’ll stay with Sky and Paddy until 23rd August, and then onto Thailand for two weeks! In London, we will meet up with Julie, Paul, and Stephen too.
Later: –How am I going to say goodbye to my Beautiful family? It was very sad saying goodbye to Julie! Even though I’ll meet her again in three-four weeks, seeing her leave was extremely emotional and so you can just imagine how incredibly SAD I’ll feel. Goodbyes are not my strong point and I’m going away for almost two years! I can’t think about it, it’s TOO much; anyway, I have a week to prepare for the inevitable!
Monday 16th: My Turn!
The day is here—I can’t believe it! It’s arrived so quickly, I haven’t had a chance to write about our farewells—but as you can imagine they’ve been emotional and memorable. Now, we’re off, up in the air, heading for Perth where Sky and Paddy will be waiting!’
Diary entry: Dad at the Airport.
‘Suzie, Cory, Enjoy Life to the Full. You will be in my thoughts all the way. Love Forever Dad xxxx’
Being in his thoughts was an understatement …
We’re here!! The plane trip was good, felt a bit sick—but that may have had something to do with the champagne, the bourbon, the plane food, and taking malaria tablets at ten thousand feet! Add the overload of emotion before the flight, wow, this is going to be one huge trip, and we’re only in Perth! Sky and Paddy met us, which was lovely.
Perth in a week: Fremantle Gaol, duty-free shopping, restaurants, farewells to Cory’s beautiful family, and celebrations, etc.
Last day: We’re all set to go! We are now cooking the traditional Aussie farewell BBQ, the next time writing: I’ll be on the plane!
I share our Thailand experiences in diary format, written at a restaurant on Lumai Beach, Koh Samui!
August 23rd Destination Bangkok
We’re In the Air! Incredible! The first leg of our trip is underway and our dream is coming true… When the plane lands, Cory and I are ready for whatever Bangkok has to offer, play with our duty-free goodies, walk the streets, and totally give in to it!
As imagined, I’ve seen nothing like it! When we stepped off the plane—the humidity and smell hit us. The air smelt like a strange mixture of butter and coconut. Customs procedure was quick, and it was raining when we found our lift to the Park Hotel, (which was refreshing!). The traffic was so heavy the 30 km ride to the City took over two hours. Everyone was piled in the back of cars like sheep, poor things. When they spotted us, they waved and said, ‘Welcome’. Very, very friendly people indeed!
Our hotel is very nice and the hospitality great. Our room has all the conveniences, small, but enough for us! We didn’t unpack, just headed straight downstairs for dinner.
We ate a gorgeous Thai meal at a very cheap price—unreal! After dinner, we adventured out. Cory was careful, wanting to stay aware in case we were ripped off. I on the other hand, sensed the air immediately, and knew we had no worries! Cory finally relaxed when we sat down in the window of an established coffee shop, to watch the population of Thailand flow by. The locals give unbeatable service; they cannot do enough and are genuinely friendly!
The saddest aspects of the sights to see are the limbless derelicts, unguarded infants, and streetwalkers all jostling for money! Initially, Cory wouldn’t let me weaken, refusing to support their parents’ social dilemma. He does have a point; it’s just that they’re so very, very poor.
We stayed out until 6.30 am and slept to 2.30 pm, which was good considering it was so stinkin’ hot here. Unbelievable—bring on the night.
Tuesday night Cory and I headed for ‘Patpong Road’, the infamous Red-light district of Bangkok. The first bar to win our presence was called ‘Susie Wong’ and the moment we sat down, three ‘ladies’ were upon us, smiling, and giving us compliments. They appeared sweet and not at all sleazy, just going through the motions. Soon, dancers surrounded us—who were very inquisitive and generous giving us four Roses, and a cigarette packet made to resemble a little bouquet. So sweet! To top it off they had photographs taken with us! The sweet extravaganza was amazing, but Cory and I eventually bid warm goodbyes, and departed before being overwhelmed.
We’d only just stepped out of Susie Wong’s when a Thai man ran to us, and used bizarre hand movements, suggesting we see a ‘show’. Why not, (we were up for anything), and followed him to a nearby street, up stairs—with walls adorned with pornographic pictures, and into a dark room emitting trendy, loud, music. Half clad and naked women danced on a stage doing strange, incredible things. From a safe distance, we saw one lady pop ping pong balls from her private parts, another dart balloons, one honk a horn, and another puff cigarette smoke, all to a loud choruses of cheers from men in the darkened room. Other entertainers stood, barely dancing, lifeless, and zombie-like. I missed the cigarette trick because I was arguing with a big, plump woman. She demanded 2000B (120 Australian dollars) to watch the performance! (The ‘Whisky’ and cokes were 100B as well.) Of course, we didn’t pay. We didn’t know what we were coming to, and left after paying for our drinks. We’d gained an overall picture (amazing, and sad).
Situated across the road was a brightly lit bar with women dancing in bikinis, minus the funny business. Cory bought us a whisky (it’s all they drink here) and we watched the ‘entertainment’. We admired one of the dancing girls, as she was full of life and fun! After the show, she came to us pointing upstairs, non-verbally asking if we’d like to go upstairs for a dance. My initial thought was that she was hoodwinking me to capture Cory. However, as she seemed GENUINELY friendly I trusted her. This time, we were rewarded with a cool nightclub, great music, and people dancing having fun! No funny business anywhere! It was fantastic, until the music mellowed, signalling the time to leave. The night was cool, and devoid of traffic, which made for a wonderful journey home in a ‘tuk tuk’ (three-wheel motorbike taxi)!
Wednesday - we visited the glittering purple and gold ‘Grand Palace’. It’s over 200 years old, and the brilliant architecture remains in immaculate condition. A spiritual experience!
Thursday, we caught a 56-seat flight to ‘Koh Samui’, which took an hour. Although initially bumpy, the ride smoothed out. The scenery was gorgeous; the food was not. Koh Samui Airport was charming, being outdoors, and little. We met a couple on their honeymoon, and hired bungalows on Lumai beach. The bungalows were small, including a shower and toilet that left a lot to be desired, but we didn’t care (the first night anyway). In the evening, we ate magic mushroom omelettes at the Magic Restaurant—overlooking the beach, eating, drinking, and enjoying! Almost immediately, everything seemed more glorious: the sky, stars, the moon, the beach, and the palms … everything! Following our omelettes, we met Ludoure and Frederick (gloriously gorgeous French brothers) on the beach… and I struggled to remember my French lessons.
We woke Friday morning to waves lapping the beach and nearby Thai voices calling: ‘Would you like a massage, manicure, sarongs, t-shirts, coke, water’ anything!
Half awake, we moved to the ‘Magic Resort’ bungalow (contained with a normal toilet above the ground and a great shower), and planned to hire mo-peds! On the way, (a very short walk) I sprained my ankle outside the French guys’ bungalow whilst excitedly calling ‘Salute’ to them! Naturally, then, a mo-ped (postie motorbike) should have been avoided, but I got one anyway. We rode east and south along the island roads, finishing at Wakkii Beach, where we had a yummy lunch, a swim, and proceeded home! Me, with all my confidence, sped beside Cory (80 kilometres an hour–max speed). We had a ball, BUT, on slowly crossing a wooden bridge, I felt threatened by a big black van coming up behind. I looked behind me and tried to hurry, but my bike skidded on a crack in the bridge and I fell! Result: A badly scraped elbow, leg, awful bruises, and more pain on my swollen ankle—aren’t I clever! Back in the saddle, despite missing our turn-off, and riding on a damaged bike, I made it home in one piece. My wonderful doctor (Cory) fixed me up as best he could! Hours later, the annual Full Moon Festival commenced on Lumai Beach, and Cory helped me hobble to the party, bandaged, and limping! All we could do was rest on the beach, observing the shows and everyone else dancing.
A second and final annual Full Moon party took place the next night—Saturday night, and I enjoyed this one! Not Cory though, he became sick after eating magic mushroom soup, and stayed with the honeymooners at a quieter location of the party, while I went exploring with Ludoure and Frederick in the thick of it further down the beach, while I went exploring with Ludoure and Frederick. (The three of us had eaten the magic omelettes for dinner.) We had a great time! The moon was so full and incredibly large. So near to us, I thought I could reach out and touch it… Feeling as if we were in an entirely different world, it was extra fun communicating, especially with Ludoure, as he knew a bit (un peu) of English. Numerous stalls and areas played loud music; music was everywhere, and it was wonderful translating a few words into French.
Later…Cory wanted to go back to our bungalow, I didn’t, and he didn’t mind me staying out with Ludoure and Frederick—Bless him! We partied for two hours, and then sat on our end of Lumai Beach listening to Bob Marley on the boys’ tape recorder. It was wonderful, especially because we could understand each other, to some degree. Talk and good feeling—I loved it!
I was put to a universal test concerning the exceedingly good-looking Ludoure. We had an instant rapport when Cory introduced us on our first night, hoping my verbal French skills would locate marijuana, and an attraction grew between us during our humorous efforts to relate. However, my commitment to Cory was of greater value than moving closer for a stolen kiss. I even avoided a goodbye kiss from Ludoure on my cheek. This was hard. Deep down, I wanted to kiss him so much, but my sleeping Cory couldn’t be deceived, nor his precious trust trampled on! I’m glad I passed this test, but come to regret that missed opportunity in the near future. At that point, Cory was unconsciously teaching me the beauty of trust!
The next day, we hired proper motorbikes and Cory doubled me, this time! Reckless and wonderful, we zoomed north to visit the Big Buddha. The Buddha was grand, but I wasn’t appropriately dressed for Him (ripped shorts, singlet top). He received me anyway (had no choice). After the Buddha, we journeyed by motorbike and then on foot to a waterfall (disappointing—no water falling)! We zoomed around the rest of the island and finally drove our hot machine home. Dinner was at a lovely Italian/Thai restaurant with the honeymooners, and later we played cards in their bungalow, next to ours.
On Monday, Cory and I lazed on the beach, and dined at an Islamic restaurant with the honeymooners. Afterwards, we went to the ‘Mixed Bar’. Ludoure and Frederick turned up—we hung out, and later sat on the beach absorbing the beautiful night and energy.
On Tuesday, Cory and I hired a motorbike and continued to explore the island! It was Beautiful because we were on our own and could do whatever we wanted. I loved it so much. We enjoyed yummy tuna and mayonnaise sandwiches, hot chips, and lazed under the sun on a beach. Very sore bums from the bikes, but that didn’t matter!
Wednesday, we stayed on the beach soaking up lovely sunrays, before being covered up in freezing cold London. In the evening, Cory and I adventured to Koh-Pha-ngan for another Full Moon Party! We met beautiful Thai gay guys—Dao, Aui, and Odd. Dao arranged our ride to the nearby island in his friend’s speedboat and made sure we had the Best night possible! We danced all night and became special friends overnight. They’re like our Sydney Boys, but slightly shy (especially Aui), which made it even more special when they opened up. Dancing on the beach was awesome, especially when the sun rose over the ocean!
On our second last night: Dao, Aui, and Odd picked us up to go to the Green Manger and the Reggae Club. It was fantastic…we spent the night dancing and partying again. These guys have made our Thailand holiday very special. Aui gave Cory and me his necklace so he would be with us wherever we went. He said, ‘My heart is in these stones’—this man is angelic! After the Reggae Club, we went to the Doors Club, and then to the Country Pub. We arrived home about 5.30 am after a unique night, and woke to a Beautiful Blue Sunny day. Not wishing to waste our last full day, we walked to the beach at 11.30 am and rested amongst it.
The last evening we partied more. We had intended to relax on our final night but ‘the guys talked us into going to the Reggae Club again and ‘Gim’, who I haven’t mentioned, wouldn’t take no and is too Beautiful too resist. She is such an inspiration, a party-animal, sweet and very genuine’. (Gim is a Thai girl who we met through Dao, Odd, and Aui. In order to look after her and family, she provides her body to male services, stating, ‘It doesn’t change who I am or what’s inside of me’. She touched our hearts, and is the motivating reason I sponsor a Thai girl in the future.) … ‘Another great night was had! The Reggae Club was pumping like our Sydney dance parties when they were cool. Sadly, Cory and I couldn’t have a late night (scheduled to leave for the airport at 11.30 am!) But, we had a Good one, which we’ll never forget. In the Samui van, Dao and Aui kindly drove us to the airport. It was very sad saying goodbye to the guys, I cried—couldn’t help it, my heart hurt.
Bangkok was as hectic as we left it, but we still loved it (for short periods). The afternoon encompassed last minute shopping for Mum, Louise, Ian, and the girls, and back to the Park Hotel to organise bags (which we did in the hotel foyer) and meet our taxi. The airport was astounding—people everywhere, but we managed to do everything and board just on time at 11.45 pm.
The flight has been good, (met an Indian woman from Delhi), and we are about to land in London! I can see the landscapes—beautiful as imagined! Seems like I’ve been here before. We’re descending quickly; I’m off to enjoy the trip while it lasts! Can’t wait to see Julie, Paul, and Stephen in LONDON! Bye, Bye!
* * *
Cory and I emerged from the plane at about 7 am after a 14 hour flight, weary and excited. We moved slowly in line following other passengers, because Cory was carrying the Indian woman’s heavy bag, who’d been sitting beside us from Delhi, and we loved having a little piece of India near us.
At the Customs counter, I had trouble trying to get into the country. The Customs Officer demanded to know how much money I had in my bank account, because I didn’t have a return ticket out. I had about $500 dollars on MasterCard and told him more would be in it as soon as tomorrow, thousands more even, but he wasn’t satisfied, giving me the stiff upper lip. Almost in tears, exasperated and worried I wouldn’t be allowed entry, I said, ‘All I want to do is have a holiday in your country like you guys do in ours’. Statement worked, he let me through, and I walked to Cory who’d been patiently waiting, easily getting through with his EC passport—being born in Ireland.
We waited fruitlessly for an hour for Julie at the airport and asked for directions to Shepherd’s Bush, the suburb where she was staying at our friend Clinton’s house. One director didn’t even have Shepherd’s Bush on his map, but another was slightly familiar and indicated which line we needed.
After a 40-minute tube ride with England’s green landscape and stations fleeting by our window, we began walking along Shepherd’s Bush High Street, on an old tarmac walkway glistening its sparkles as the sun beamed warmly on our backs. I sensed the chill in the air behind the sunrays, and knew I was in for weather as I’d never felt it before. Two minutes later, a black woman with a funky hairdo spiking in all directions, stopped Cory in his tracks, telling him to be very careful carrying our video camera over his shoulder. This is a dangerous area, she said, thieves could be lurking on every corner. We hadn’t sensed this vibe—people seemed cool and easy, especially the black guys we’d spotted, but we’d been walking in the wrong direction, so she righted us, and we turned and walked towards the sun, stopping at the last pub on the corner opposite a park, green and lush with oak, birch and elm trees.
The classy Moon n’ Six Pence, with planter boxes overflowing with flowers bordering the outside and door tops, was our first haven and taste of England. The patrons seemed like typical pub goers, until they opened their mouth. So well spoken and crystal clear. We said our hellos, ate lunch, and periodically rang Julie until she answered. She couldn’t believe we were just round the corner, thinking we were still in Thailand. I’d spoken to Dad from Koh Samui and had asked him to let Julie know when we’d be arriving. But he obviously had far too much on his mind to remember.
Before long, we spotted Julie and Justine (a fun-loving dance party friend), coming down the road opposite the park. The sight of Julie moved me, as did embracing her when she walked through the door. Here we were, together, in a different country on the other side of the world. We had a celebration drink and caught up on travel stories—Julie had just returned from Greece. From there, we trudged with our backpacks up to the Mailcoach Inn, our home for the night. Clinton (another friend from dance parties), Justine, Julie, Cory, and I, had English baked dinners at the Inn, drank a few beverages, had a few laughs, and accustomed ourselves to being in the Northern Hemisphere before we parted company.
I had my usual fruit breakfast in the morning, as per the Fit for Life book recommendations—designed for warmer climates, then met up with Stephen, who had returned home to England indefinitely. It was a dream come true seeing him in his homeland! He stayed with us as we settled into our new little room with Julie and Juzzi in an old four level manor house. Our room had two single beds—one against a wall and the other under a large window. It also contained a kitchen sink, stove, small wardrobe, and enough floor space in the middle to fit Cory and me in our duck down sleeping mattresses. The large window was the width of the room and the best feature in the place, its view of the back of very old buildings etched London’s sky, sometimes orange at night. Our abode was on Linden Gardens, a leafy cul-de-sac in Notting Hill Gate in the heart of Notting Hill, moments away from cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, and cinemas. This place was about money, we didn’t know quite how much at that stage.
Stephen accompanied us to Kensington Palace in the next suburb, which we found after a lengthy walk through Kensington Gardens. The sun was shining in intervals between greying clouds, whipping up the wind as we walked through formal avenues of magnificent trees, decorative flower beds, and sat beside a pond seeing a peak of at the Palace in the distance! We lapped up the environment: a perfect setting for Kensington Palace with the peaceful Italian Gardens, the Albert Memorial, Peter Pan statue, and the Serpentine Gallery to name a few historical attractions.
Kensington Palace has been a royal home for over 300 years and parts of the palace remain a private residence for members of the royal family today. Once a favoured home of some of Britain’s most famous kings and queens, it was the setting for many great events and dramas in royal history. We felt the history moving through the historic palace with elaborate trompe l’oeil ceilings and staircases, through magnificent State Apartments with amazing depictive paintings plentiful on huge walls, and saw how royalty once lived. So opulent, and their outlandish clothes we saw in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including dresses worn by HM Queen Elizabeth 11 that could have warmed a multitude of freezing British bodies, now and in the past.
We didn’t see Lady Di, who was living there then, and we weren’t invited to lunch or welcome celebrations. Those things were back at Notting Hill Gate, at the Prince Albert Hotel at higher than expected prices. Stephen left us there, and the rest of us played rounds of pool, smoked cigarettes, drank beer, as I tried to acquire the taste of apple cider and blackcurrant juice, because I didn’t like beer. Paul, my beautiful dancing partner, visited our room in the evening after work, his room only a floor up in our new residence. We still had special energy for each other; Cory loved him too… It was wonderful meeting up on the other side of the world.
‘THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE.’ Julie and I repeated to each other as we sat transfixed on a classic open-top Big Red Bus touring London’s famous sights. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and The Tower of London are just some of the fabulous sights that blew our mind. Lucky we were semi-oblivious to the cold. It was only early September and we were already freezing, but despite some rain, momentary bursts of sunlight made the tour comfortable enough to appreciate the views and listen to the informative, entertaining commentary on London and its tourist attractions.
After we alighted at Piccadilly Circus, ate lunch in a nearby pub, and walked around taking in more views on foot, we visited Paul at the restaurant where he worked. Joe’s Restaurant was too pricey for us to dine in and we hoped to treat ourselves next week. Dad’s money—the money said to allow us a holiday of a lifetime—was finally coming through on Monday, in three days, and it would be the last time he’d be put off. Last Wednesday was supposed to be the last time. Monday is a definite, he told us, and he sounded so positive. I just prayed he’d get what he truly deserved—which is more than any money in the world could match, in my eyes. Everything depended on it pretty much, all his money was behind it. He has many plans to share his good fortune with all of us!
Another important matter regarding the money is that we were almost broke! We needed to make the most of what we could for the weekend and survive to Monday… which wouldn’t be too hard, since we still planned to have a big Saturday night out, having enough money on our credit cards for tickets and some beverages.
Before our first big night out, (Julie’s second in London), we spent Saturday looking around Portobello Markets, one of the world’s most famous street markets, just down the road from us. The markets on Portobello Road stretch for around two miles, going straight through the heart of Notting Hill, the trendy area of London made famous by the film: Notting Hill. Even though we didn’t buy anything, walking amid the diverse and stylish Saturday crowd through the markets overflowing with expensive items and old worldly character, took up plenty of time—filling the day nicely, before our big night out.
We left for The Fridge nightclub in Brixton at 10.30 pm—Britain’s largest independently owned nightclub—with actual fridges stuck to front of the building, and arrived in the foyer to see video screens of naked men being raunchy. Love Muscle was the name of the party to celebrate the Fridge’s second year anniversary, and if I hadn’t had years in the proximity of countless cool and gorgeous men, I would have felt out of place. Females were definitely the minority.
The cranking music in the large nightclub with a huge dance floor adorned with glittering tinsel and lights, lured us to our dancing spot, and we immediately got into it, dancing, and having fun. I loved the new London beats, yet to make it to Aussie shores. Coupled with cute expressions, I loved how the London gay boys moved their rhythmical shoulders so quickly up and down to the tempo, as though they were holding onto a bus wheel. But my new boots began hurting, especially my right toe. They were Julie’s new buy, but were too small for her, and although my feet are the same length as Julie’s, they are narrower, so I hoped I’d fit into them. And, I did until they began hurting, so I ended up dancing with them off and black socks still on, which I hated.
I still danced with Paul, and we celebrated dancing on the other side of the globe, and dancing amidst beautiful, sexy gay men with the extra allure of growing up on opposite sides of the planet. The music was as we loved and extra fab and upbeat, blasting from the music capital of the world.
Cory often watched us with loving expressions, never a smidgen of jealousy—I loved him for it. He and I didn’t really dance up close, we danced more like friends, not being an outwardly affection couple. Even in my happiest party moments dancing with Paul and everyone, a part of me was sad Cory and I didn’t have fun dancing, letting our hair down together. Although he never said, Cory didn’t really like dancing, and never let go on the dance floor; cruisy and happy enough to stand back at bit and shuffle his feet, wiggling his cute bottom, with a lover of life look on his face!
We still had our special times, and we were having a one-to-one when we heard Paul’s voice over the microphone. He’d jumped on stage to sing along with Sybil, performing her hit songs The Love I Lost and When I’m Good and Ready. Paul is so irresistible. His charm takes him anywhere he wants to go. With his dark hair, big brown smiley eyes, and happy energy, he could get away with anything. Just smile and you’ll get by, Julie often said to him. We all stopped dancing when we heard Paul’s voice and watched as he stood beside Sybil edging into the microphone. She gave him a moment then said, ‘Thanks Paul. Thank you very much’ gently ushering him off.
Many men strutted their stuff during the night’s main performance until they were wearing nothing but accessories, dancing sexily. I’d seen nothing like it! And, all with my boots off. Still off, we left when the club closed, and out the front negotiated with a black man the price of a trip home in a mini-cab. Mini-cabs are the cheapest way to get around London, and although illegal, we didn’t question the process. The one we chose assured he had a stereo, but when we jumped in and saw that he didn’t, he said, ‘Sing, sing, your voices are the stereo’ in his warmly humorous Jamaican accent. We humoured him by singing for a while as we drove along and I looked out of the back passenger window at dawn lighting up green parks, frosted and misty, highlighting our transition from warm Oz to partying in the UK! Back at home, we played cards, drank vodka, and laughed our heads off—mainly at Paul, who was at his funny fittest, and waited for Villa, a day party club, to open at 1 pm.
Paul, Julie, Justine, Cory, and I eventually left for Villa Stephanos, near Holborn Tube, at 2.30, which we could afford as Cory managed to get 100 pounds out of the Money Exchange. Thanks to a small portion of stay-awake stuff, we danced our bottoms off at Villa, and had a fabulous time dancing to the music, dancing with people, dancing in front of the cooling fan! Hours and hours were lost as we danced, and rested at times at a table chatting, smiling, observing.
London party life was almost the same as Sydney’s: cool, hip, and trendy… except it was ahead of Sydney in music and fashion variability—more people to display vast expressions. There was less skin, as Londoners are mainly lily white and Aussies love showing off their brown skin and sculptured bodies. Cory and I were still brown from Thailand, but we didn’t flaunt it. We flaunted our love of life and trusted everything was as it was meant to be. All of us left near the end and caught a tube, then a bus home, laughing at Julie nearly the whole way. Everything she said was funny, every facial expression, every movement… When she was running for a connecting bus because our tube line was down, she ran up to it, shaking her ticket over her head in such a way we could barely keep standing from laughing. She’s pure, crack up material when partying!
After such a big weekend, we slept Monday day away, and rose to a massive pizza, deep pan pig out—on MasterCard, of course. Still penniless. The money delayed to Friday, now.
In preparation for it coming through, we went looking for campervans at Wembley during the week, to see what we could expect when we had the money. Julie, Cory, and I planned to travel through Europe, and go to the October Munich Festival in Germany. Kombi vans seemed to be an extremely cold way to travel when we were sitting inside one, looking at the van’s thin metal encasing as the only insulation between Europe’s incredibly cold weather and us. But, we had no rush to decide how we’d travel through Europe. With the said money through, we now hoped to catch the Euro Rail through Europe—a far warmer prospect.
We took a day to visit the majestic St Paul’s Cathedral, with its huge white dome and Corinthian columns on the entrance, and climbed internal stairs round and round to the Whispering Gallery with a concave shape, where we whispered to each other hearing loud and clear. Then we went to the top of the building to look over London, which was a maze of streets and a bit of a mess from such a height. To think of the countless number of lives that have passed through and were currently moving through those streets, through the vast expanse of concrete jungle before our eyes, dotted with a few parks, lined with the tireless River Thames, on a grey background on this day. My mind boggled with incomprehensibility. Below the Cathedral, in the crypt, we walked around tombstones embedded in the ground, finishing the visit by lighting a candle and a saying a prayer—needing all the prayers we could get. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Tombstones are always a great reminder of this.
By Friday, we’d discovered the money wouldn’t be until next Wednesday, so we had to wait for then hoping it truly would. We filled in the weekend as best we could in our room playing cards, having our own cook ups, and going for strolls around London streets, Kensington Gardens and the adjoining Hyde Park with its cute ducks and squirrels to avoid ‘cabin fever’ as Julie called it.
Tuesday, we needed reminding of how lucky we really were by visiting the Tower of London: the oldest palace, fortress, and prison in Europe. The Tower of London, an imposing fortress with many layers of history, has become a symbol of royalty, and is identified with the White Tower in the centre—the original square fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The Tower is a complex of several buildings within two rings of defensive walls and a moat. Julie, Cory, our friend Clinton and I didn’t know any of this as we stood near the haunting Traitor’s Gate, at the front of the castle, listening to its history. We thought all of it was the Tower of London, soon realising that over the centuries, successive royalty added to its layers.
We visited the Chapel with age-old caskets bearing the remains of historic figures; we saw the wing-clipped Ravens; the torture chambers and the various torture implements. We learnt about the executions—hangings for lower class criminals, beheading for the nobles, in private for the luckier ones. We saw Henry the Eighth’s surprisingly small grave; life size representations of war horses, actual suits of armour and weapons. And, understood how lucky we were living now with our incomparably minute ‘money’ problems, and how lucky we were to be living freely at all!
Still, we lived freely within the confines of our limited daily expense. We didn’t need to rob for food, where once we would have received an extremely torturous free ride back to Australia. Julie had her return flight, so she had an escape route, which would have meant zilch if we’d lived in those hard times when planes didn’t even exist. Cory and I didn’t want to go home anyway. We planned to live and work in London for as long as possible, after the holiday we planned with the blessed money. But was it blessed? We were growing very anxious about its delay.
It was delayed again to the following Monday and from the calls we knew Dad was having major difficulty trying to finalise his investment. He was being mucked around. Hope was telling him about court proceedings, to lift the bank’s caveat on the money. Papers were being signed. Numbers needed to drop. All sorts on things involved in private dealings with the Zurich Bank. Mystery stuff, Dad said he’d explain more about one day. Above board, he fully believed. But, was he getting the full story?
It didn’t happen again on Monday or Wednesday. Poor Dad was going through too much stress and worry over this deal. I prayed to God to make it come true for him. He’d given generously to us all his life, and I deeply wished for him to have riches. He’d always been rich in my eyes, always big-hearted when he gave me money for anything—richly big-hearted about most things. And in his bedroom, when I was growing up, he had a large crystal bowl full of silver and brown coins, which he let me help myself to. Never told me not to, and I never took advantage. Wished we had an overflowing bowl of money here with us today ...
Chapter Ten: 1991 ~ Spreading My Wings
‘It has been shown how every external activity is directed by an inner motion and how, at the source of it, there is a principal cause. It must be understood that every wave of life which is set in motion by the principal cause, works towards a purpose. With its every motion, the purpose becomes more definite, and at its every stage of evolution, it adjusts itself, making a perfect harmony – although in a limited space, this same activity may appear inharmonious. Therefore good and evil, right and wrong, when viewed by the keen sight, correspond with a certain purpose, and thus prove harmonious from the standpoint of the perfect Whole.’ ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
I partied as normal, over, and beyond the festive, party period, frequenting Hordern dance parties, as well as attending my third fabulous Mardi Gras feeling like a seasoned party goer. I often enjoyed evenings at the Chinese Laundry nightclub, a trendy venue in the City where Julie was a bar girl, and Daniel a door attendant. From there, we would move to DCM (Don’t Cry Mumma) a nightclub on Oxford Street where we’d spend the remainder of the night dancing and pounding to music that wouldn’t let us off the dance floor because it was so good. Feeling wonderfully at one with all, the entire nightclub was a dance floor, so we danced wherever we were, and the hours flew by with smiley, funny, cool people.
Mum wasn’t having such a fun time back on the home front. The only good thing was having me there for her peace of mind and distraction. She devoted years to helping Ron’s boys—Mike and Rich, and now she felt dejected. She had tried giving them motherly love, but being unaccustomed to those attentions due to a shaky upbringing, they rejected her and created barriers. Ron influenced the boy’s behaviour by habitually putting them first, inferring Mum’s less important position to all concerned. This stood in stark contrast to the Woy Woy home, where Dad placed the stepfamily first; believing family would always love you. Oh, the paradox was ironic!
Mum and Ron had offered me to move in with them when troubles rose in my Woy Woy home, but I strongly believed this wouldn’t be needed. Now I actually had left my home in such a way, I couldn’t keep sleeping in Julie’s bed forever, so took up their offer and moved into a spare room, made special by a motherly touch. Mike and I were two months apart in age and we’d already developed a fine friendship since meeting when we were fourteen. We had a genuine brotherly, sisterly friendship, which widened when we shared special dances and dance party moments experiencing the wonder of such incredible events, such as walking in the parade at our first Mardi Gras. Rich, a couple of years younger, was also a sweetheart, his presence made me feel I now had a loving, younger brother in my life. And, Ron showed he was agreeable to me living there. He’d provide ample fruits and vegetables from the markets, and would leave a freshly squeezed orange juice for me in the mornings. Sadly, though, Mum wasn’t having a great relationship with him, and hadn’t been for some time.
She eventually sought alternative living arrangements, and didn’t tell Ron about her plans because he wouldn’t allow her to take any furniture without seeing a solicitor. When she saw one and explained the strange particulars, he gave her off the record advice: ‘The only way to escape from this man is to do a ‘fly-by night’.
Mum had no other choice. We found a two bedroom duplex in Belmore in late February, five minutes up the road from Louise, Ian, and the girls. And, Matty—my friend from dance parties and exclusive visitor of Alpine—helped us move. Two trips over a twenty minute distance and our home and circumstance had entirely changed.
* * *
The following week, I flew down to Melbourne with Louise, Alana, and Bianca, for a ten day holiday at my uncle and auntie’s house. I loved being there spending time with my cousins until Julie arrived; her presence made me feel inferior due to her nonchalance with me. We began bickering almost immediately. She could easily ruffle my sensitive feathers because I was so much younger and deficient in wordsmith skills. I’d become irrationally upset to her comments taken as brush-offs and run-downs. Louise treated me differently too when Julie came, demoting my importance from sister/friend to the role of dispensable aunt, more like an agony aunt. I felt like a child again, like Cinderella doing all the unwanted work.
A couple of days later we got along better and through Julie, I met Aaron …
In my diary I wrote: Thursday 28th - ‘Met Aaron at Chasers nightclub. I didn’t meet him until towards the end of the night when dancing with Louise and Julie. He was sitting on the nearby stage watching, and when Julie went to sit for a rest, they started speaking and he asked about me. She introduced us as the last dance ended, so we all ventured outside. Louise attempted to hail down a taxi (out of waiting line) when Aaron offered us a lift home. His car was just across the road, a flashy number, and the catch came on opening the passenger door. His car was really a two-seater that provided only a tight and narrow area as the backseat. This was the first time in my life that I was to come first and be put in front of both Louise and Julie. They were uncomfortable and expressed it a little; however, the trip was short and appreciated all the same, especially by me. This guy was so lovely and interesting. I loved his response when I asked what he did for work. ‘I’m a ballroom dance instructor.’
This was exciting!
We went to watch our cousin Chris play in a band the next evening, and later Julie, Aaron, and I went nightclubbing in two of Melbourne’s cool nightclubs. It wasn’t so fun with just the three of us, but we still had some good dances together. Aaron talked me into going back to his house when he took us home, and I left a note for Aunty Rosy and Louise informing of my whereabouts, telling them not to worry, because Aaron was a ‘perfect gentlemen’. When I returned the next morning, Aunty Rosy made a fuss about how thoughtful and lovely the letter was. I felt grown up and thrilled, receiving praise for being considerate while going about adult things!
We spoke on the phone that night and the next day from work. I returned home from work to two red roses in a cylinder hanging on the front door with a card To Suzie, All my love Aaron (PS Please say yes). I guessed his passionate question was about marriage but certainly wasn’t ready to consider such a thing. He sent me a letter few days later bursting with emotion. He had chosen a star for us: ‘Just remember no matter where we are in the world at night we both see the same stars and I’ve picked one for us. It will always be there looking after you, and if you ever miss me like I miss you, just go and have a look at our star because that’s where I am’. He also said there was something about his past he wanted to share with me face-to-face, emphasising it wasn’t too bad, and not to panic. I was curious!
I met him at the airport the following Friday afternoon where we were amorous again. Back at home, he revealed the secret… His ballroom dance partner was his former wife, but they separated a year ago. I knew what she looked like because he posted a video of them winning That’s Dancing—a popular 80s ballroom dancing show, with the letter he recently sent to me. He needed me to reassure him I was okay with this, and we went on to have a wonderful weekend, meeting family, friends, and dancing at my favourite nightspots. I loved dancing with him. He was able to move freely, without ballroom constraints, never having had a substance running through his system to make that exceedingly easier. Derrick, my original favourite gay guy, in terms of gorgeousness, sexy-cool dancing, dressing, and appeal, even appreciated his beauty from a respectful distance!
Aaron, four years older than me, was fun-loving and so very romantic and affectionate. When we were around others, he continued to lavish affection onto me, yet still wanted me to be natural and affectionate with Paul as I would when he wasn’t there. So next minute, I was sitting on Paul’s lap, gigging to the music.
At home alone, he was so passionate. We kissed, loved, and held each other as if time would never end. I adored looking at him: his beautiful face, blue eyes, dark brown hair and complexion, as he lay in my pink sheets on my double bed. I loved feeling so grown up with him. He was my coming of age.
Alas, the long weekend ended too quickly. I’d arranged a flex-day for Monday so we could spend the precious day together before airport time in the early evening. The day flew by too quickly, and at the airport, we didn’t want to say goodbye. Sad, soppy, and romantic, we waved and waved to each other until out of sight!
‘He’s the one for you, you’re both so suited.’ Mum said to me later that night. Her long-term suggestion shocked and excited me, even though I knew deep down Aaron was already too complicated. I was far too young for such things, but enjoyed the recognition of being a grown woman—especially by Mum. I was exhilarated about the unknown future!
A few weeks later, I flew down to Melbourne for the Easter Break to see Aaron, with his compliments. I watched him teach a ballroom lesson, we had dinners, visited his friends, but stayed at his house most the time loving each other, until he developed tonsillitis on the last night, so we went to the doctors. Back at home in his room, Aaron cried. I thought his sadness was because we were parting the next morning, but he was having foresight I realised sometime later, knowing it would be the last time we’d see each other as a couple. Different from me, too caught up in the thrill of our romance to detect any subtle messages. We lovingly kissed goodbye at the airport early Tuesday morning, and I caught the plane to Sydney airport, took a taxi to my work, and walked around all day with my heart on my sleeve.
* * *
But it’s dangerous bearing our hearts so openly to others, and things were quickly changing.
Julie moved in with us in April. We had asked Julie if she wanted to move out with us before Mum and I moved, but she had other arrangements. Things changed and two months later, she did need to live with us indefinitely. As we had only two bedrooms, she slept with Mum in a queen-sized bed. I thought this was right. Their energies were more suited to each other. She looked like Mum and often made Mum laugh, and I envied their relationship, wishing we had one just as harmonious.
I was becoming too worried about Aaron to concentrate on my relationship with Mum and Julie. His calls were becoming irregular and I recorded in my work diary when he hadn’t rung, and happily amended when, ‘He Did!’ In fact, he was supposed to return to Sydney April 25, the Anzac Day long weekend. A dance party was on that weekend too and he asked me to buy him a ticket. I felt reassured he was coming with the tickets in my hand, but Aaron didn’t come as feared, and the absence of a phone call to tell me, hurt the most. So I rang him, and spoke to his sweet Nanna—who he lived with, to find he was definitely not coming. She didn’t know anything, except he wasn’t coming to Sydney. I was sad and pensive, yet went to the dance party anyway and still managed a fantastic night!
As a ripple effect perhaps, Julie and I had a serious tiff the following Tuesday morning, over a cup-of-tea. My work operated on a ‘flex-time’ system, which records hours worked. The earlier one arrives to work and/or the later stayed, the more hours accrued for leaving early; a fortnightly day off; or making up time. As partying, sleep, and social times were central to my life, I worked to make up lost hours each week, and was in the habit of rushing. Cups of tea were luxury I enjoyed at work in work hours, and this morning was no different.
I intended to shower, dress, apply make-up, and rush out the door, for the long walk to the station with or without Julie. Julie, with an underlying wish to have company to the station and on the train, said I shouldn’t go before making teas for Mum and herself. I attempted to re-explain why I had to rush, but over-reacted to her insinuations of me being lazy and uncaring about Mum. Old anger, brewing from a lifetime of off-handed younger sister treatment, started festering inside me, reigniting when Mum got up from bed and immediately defended Julie without knowing the nature of our upset. For it wasn’t about a cup of tea, it was about disdain caused from an old pattern of sibling rivalry. Mum, disgusted at my direct emotion, called me a ‘Drama Queen’, which hurt and I looked at Julie as the blame behind Mum’s yelling. Charged with duress, I walked over to Julie and punched her on the arm, incensed at her unnecessary treatment that brought back memories of years ago. With that, I retreated, and on closing the front door, Mum yelled, ‘Just go back to your Father and Fay’s!’ hurting me again considering what occurred on that home front.
In tears, I made my way to Louise and Ian’s haven, where I continued sobbing uncontrollably. Little Alana kept saying, ‘What’s wrong with Aunty Suzie, what’s wrong?’ Louise and Ian’s comforting eased my emotions… Louise empathised with me as she felt Mum favoured Julie, and we thought this was because they were the most alike in looks, habits, and mannerisms. ‘Always the bridesmaids and never the bride’, she said about us. After that necessary pit stop, I was back on route to work.
I walked through my office door and announced to Stephen my urgent need to go to England. Stephen understood. Mum had already rung and left a message for me to phone Julie. I didn’t call, too hurt to speak amicably to her. I copied the daily calendar quotation in my diary: ‘As a cure for worrying work is better than whisky’. The daily stars: ‘AQUARIUS: This is not the time to let other people dominate you. In many ways it is imperative you use your independence to get ahead. Assert your will and be a little bit one-eyed where people are trying to make a puppet out of you.’
In protest of the morning’s episode, I arranged to meet Alicia at the Wynyard Hotel after work. Earlier that day she sent flowers to my work: ‘My Dearest Suzie, Chin-up babe, if the worse comes to worst, you can share my family! Take it easy babe. Love ya heaps Alicia xxxooo’. We stayed at the hotel with a group of Alicia’s work friends until long after 11 pm and caught taxis home. Belmore is a 20-minute drive from the city, and by midnight, I quietly entered my house, careful not to disturb Mum and Julie, still uncomfortable at the prospect of seeing them. Mum had placed little white flowers on my bedside table as an expression of her love, which helped me fall to sleep more peacefully.
I retreated to my bedroom early the following evening. Mum came in to talk with me; a talk that gave rise to something I had thought before but had never spoken, not having the heart to hurt her. Now, suffering unfairly when it came to my self-conjured image of Julie, I said, ‘If you wanted me to be more like you then you should never have left me when I was young, as it means I am more like Dad’. Who is more relaxed, laid-back, and unsystematic—to some aggravatingly so! I could see she felt pain, but she knew I hadn’t intended to hurt her. My words were to identify and ideally rectify personality differences, by understanding how they might have developed. Mum was genuinely sorry and we made up.
I went to artistic lengths to scribe the word ‘Indifference’ in my diary: drawing little faces in a variety of emotions around it, telling myself that despite the many states of emotions we might have about something or someone, we should be detached to the outcome, to allow a peaceful state of mind. I was consoling myself over my Aaron disappointment, which Mum and Julie assumed was the reason behind my argument with Julie. Being extra-sensitive, I confess to, but he wasn’t the trigger to my automatic reaction to Julie.
Aaron called approximately a hundred days later than he said he would, and at 3.30 am, full of apologies for hurting me, explaining he was confused about his ex. I don’t know what really happened, but it was important that he was sorry and did care as he had professed, and his contact dispelled further quizzical speculations about not hearing from him. A few days later, Aaron sent another red rose in a canister with a card in thanks for speaking to him after all he’d done to me.
PERHAPS AS A FORM OF SUBCONSCIOUS PROTECTION from over-emotion, I became a stone heavier at this time, and my small frame became a bloated round one. It dawned on me that I had gained weight when I had trouble doing up the zipper of a skirt I had worn only two weeks earlier. My previously little bottom was now a bigger rounded bottom, and my usual rounded belly was an even larger belly. Shamefully, this horrified me! Mum and Julie tried to reassure me not to worry. But do you think that stopped me? Some time later, I did find solace in Julie’s words of wisdom regarding my body image. ‘I can’t wait for the day when you see your body as a whole and not just in parts’, she said in response to my complaints about having ‘a fat’ stomach. Her powerful statement gave me hope that someday I might be satisfied again.
Alas, I needed a vain experience, suddenly feeling invisible to the majority of the male population. Gentlemen no longer held doors open for me, trains weren’t waiting, lift doors were closing, and a seeming genuine interest in how my day was, was missing. Dismayed and even heartbroken, I wondered what was happening to the world. Where were the gents who seemed so interested in your day and bidding you well? Almost all of them (at least two-thirds) seemed to have jumped off the planet and been replaced by busy, preoccupied, nonchalant men, hustling and bustling about.
I soon realised my extra weight was making men blind, and it was shocking to realise their interests were mostly visual. I had assumed and hoped my friendly, smiling face and energy had been the main attraction—the body secondary or at least complimentary. Men are attracted to womanly figures, we know, and their smiling nods and compliments did make me feel good. But deep down, I hoped they were mainly interested in my happiness for life! This was so naïve in the world’s current climate, I sadly realised… realising too that may have always been the case!
Heavily weighed down in mind and body, it was hard for me to feel a real happiness and love of life, which reflected on my everyday experiences. I hadn’t considered my extra weight as weighing down my happiness and love of life, and blamed outside forces, bringing me a period of being negative towards men. Of course, not all men. Stephen, Paul, and a few loyal ones didn’t give me any misgivings for my extra coating, and I appreciated their friendship more than ever! Naturally, I celebrated the gay man even more.
My misguided body image, boy problems, and infrequent disharmonies with my sister Julie hadn’t become all-consuming because I knew there had to be so much more to life!
~~~ Cory ~~~
‘There are three ways of seeking God in the human heart. The first way is to recognise God the divine in every person, and to care for every person with whom we come in contact, in our thought, speech, and action. Human personality is very delicate. The more living the heart the more sensitive it is; that which causes sensitivity is the love element in the heart, and love is God. The person whose heart is not sensitive is without feeling; his heart is not living, but dead. In that case the divine spirit is buried in his heart.’
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Meeting Cory on October 24 1991 was like re-meeting a special old friend. At 20 years and 8 months, I met him when he was serving at the 747 bar where I went to for lunch, and his Errol Flynn looks and easygoing charm struck me. We got on so well I overstayed my lunch hour chatting with him, and saw him again after work because I took an Irish guy from Belfast there, who I met the weekend earlier at an Irish pub in the Rocks called The Mercantile. The 747 Bar was one of eight or nine pubs within Wynyard's Hunter Arcade—one of Sydney’s busiest arcades that was packed full of drinking spots in the 90s. Designed like the inside of an aeroplane, I thought the 747 was the perfect place to take a jet-setting Irishmen. When we there though, my Irish friend drank too much and was talking to everyone, so I continued talking with Cory most of the time.
In the morning, Mum asked about my date. I said he was nice, but I liked the Irish barman more! Mum roared with laughter. I visited the 747 bar again at lunch that day and there was something between Cory and me, but my fears were a block. How could such an incredibly good-looking guy be attracted to me? Me, a ‘fatty-boom-stick’, focused far too aesthetically on her looks!
Things were simpler for Cory, who was two months older, half Irish, half English, growing up in Western Australia from age four. Cory wanted to be accepted and welcomed into a down-to-earth, fun-loving atmosphere that offered partying, as well as warm, family company. His wishes came true: friends, strangers, and family alike happily accepted him. He was such a wonderful person!
I was distracted from the party ‘scene’ on meeting this beautiful beau, though I stayed extremely hopeful that Cory would also enjoy dance parties, and accept the vast array of peoples in this world! We couldn’t have a relationship if he didn’t. When I saw him welcoming and embracing the diversity of life, loving my friends, unthreatened by admiring glances and stares from men appreciating his beauty, I was more than delighted. Cory didn’t disappoint me: his smiling heart beamed on the world! Destiny had brought me this beautiful soulful mirror, and he lifted me up!
Two months later, Cory returned to Perth, Western Australia, and our new relationship had a breather. He had travelled around Australia during the last two years, lived in Sydney, and planned to return home before we met. I encouraged him to keep with his plans, and allow whatever to happen, happen. I promised to visit him in Perth and he was adamant about coming back to live in Sydney. It was up in the air, but we believed we’d see each other again.
Chapter Eleven: 1992 ~~ Independence and Love
‘Conflict is corruption, is a waste of energy, it is the battle of our life; from the moment we are born until we die. Is it possible to live without a single moment of conflict?’
Louise and Ian held a party in their home for my 21st birth year. Special friends came, as well as Aunty Rosy and Uncle Jeff from Melbourne, and Cousin Vicky flew down from Cairns. Dad delivered a beautiful and amusing speech because of his enormous lovability and gift of expression. I beamed with delight beside him, jigging up and down, interjecting, and adding my two bobs worth here and there. ‘Hey this is my speech’, he said, ‘You’re a real ham!’ Being 21 now, I needed to say to him, ‘I’m off your hands, you don’t need to worry about me anymore’, which had him bursting with laughter, asking me to promise. We ventured to Oxford Street after the party and danced the night away in nightclubs. The metaphoric key to my future was now in hand!
I flew to Perth two days later, on Monday February 3. ‘Cory was waiting at the airport!’ I recorded in my diary. ‘It was great seeing him in the flesh again! He looked so beautiful, brown, and yummy and was totally gorgeous. We were really happy to see each other and as before, very comfortable together’. We visited the Brass Monkey hotel for a couple of merry drinks with Sky and Paddy—Cory’s friendly parents.
Rob, Cory’s good friend, joined us later and we had a night out in Northbridge, Perth’s party district dancing together freely as we did in Sydney. Sydney’s gay party dynamics had yet to influence Perth’s nightclubs, so people watched us curiously, as we danced or darted between people having fun chasing each other, hopefully not looking too ‘uncool’. Cory and I didn’t dance together as well as I danced with other guys. Most of them were gay or straight-gay-guys and their dancing abilities were usually amazing. I had the best fun dancing with gay guys whose energies were thrilling to me, pure, as it was funky!
My actual birthday fell during a holiday with Cory and Rob on Rottnest Island—a holiday island off the coastline. We bumped into friends of Cory and family, and they went to great lengths to make this birthday day extra special. ‘There were about 12 people and they all wrote on a card and bought a cake with candle: so beautiful. This was now my 3rd birthday cake and celebration. Work, party, and now birthday BBQ Party! We even danced in their lounge room, as you’ll see in the photos (whoever you are—I’m talking to my diary as if it were real). After the night was over Cory and I rode (on bikes) to one of the beaches (The Basin) and sat for ages on the sand and talked and talked – it was beautiful – I can talk to him for hours about almost anything. God I love him, his heart, his mind, his soul! That was deep and true – I can remember how I felt sitting there under the sky, so far away, so free!’
I was supposed to return to Sydney on Valentine’s Day. This was bad timing and very unromantic, so I called Glenda, my work supervisor, requesting an extension. She was sympathetic and allowed the extra day, which was a Friday. So, I shared another weekend with Cory, and needed these extra days as I was beginning to have silent reservations about whether Cory would actually be returning to Sydney.
Uncertainty mounted on the third day of my arrival and precisely on my birthday when I felt rejected from Cory’s careless comments about girls, and in particular, a girl passing by! ‘I’d be locked up if the police knew what I’d like to do to her.’ Cory remarked this way because we were with Rob, otherwise, he wouldn’t have shared his brazen thoughts, the likes only for heterosexual males, with strange fantasies. Even Rob wasn’t impressed.
I went quiet and Cory soon understood that I wouldn’t tolerate such talk, and his willingness to look at himself, pushed aside my sudden fears. Deep down, I worried he wasn’t ready or wishing for a deep soulful connection! My fears magnified when he spoke about coming back to Sydney. ‘Perth’s not for me, Sydney’s for me’, he said so strongly and often, as if he was trying to convince only himself!
BACK IN SYDNEY, two weeks later, I unconsciously found myself preparing a cushion for another fall when I visited the 747 bar where Cory had worked, to say hello to the woman manager. While I stood in the spot nearest to the bar staff, something unexpected happened. University students on a bender suddenly bombarded the bar, filling all corners of the room.
Soon and sure enough, I began chatting with the people nearest, and one in particular was very lovely—Christian from New York, in Australia doing a year at university. I have always loved foreigners and their accents; the diversity excited me, reminding me of the world’s immensity, inspiring me to travel! Something was between us from the moment we met. He was a tall gentle yet strong looking man, couple of years older, with curly dark brown hair crowning a good looking good face, and we got along as if we’d known each other for ages. On saying goodbye, we kissed and exchanged numbers, and I didn’t feel very guilty, justifying to myself that I was putting a protection mechanism into place, in case Cory just didn’t return. I thought Chris might have come as a gift and comforter to keep me strong, and from hurting, when Cory falls off the face of the earth, as Aaron seemed to do.
Chris came to a family dinner at Louise's and Ian’s; we went on a couple of dinners; and he stayed over a couple of times; but luckily, we didn’t become too close during the month, because all of a sudden Cory rang confirming he had a plane ticket booked for April Fool’s Day! With those words, I knew my heart belonged to Cory. Now that he was actually coming, I needed to take back the part given to Chris, no longer able to fragment my feelings. I affirmed to myself not to kiss Chris again, as I needed to generate complete honesty to Cory… but I’d never forget those moments Chris and I shared! Chris and I met for dinner a couple of times during the following months, and I kept that kissing promise.
* * *
Cory settled into sharing a home with three women very well. Cory was a great cook, so Julie and/or Cory created our nightly meals with good spirits. Mum and I preferred to wash up than cook! Julie, Cory, and I shared most the weekends partying in some fashion—dance parties, nightclubbing, or house-parties. After nearly two months, when his brother Luke also moved over from Perth and lived on the couch at our house for two weeks, the three of us moved to Manly with a guy named Gary, and eventually Rob. It was the end and beginning of another era. Mum and Ron had reunited, and Julie moved back to Sydney with Paul and Daniel. It made sense for me to share a home with Cory!
We moved into the top level of an old character home with distant views of Manly Beach and a sunroom to sit and appreciate this outlook while eating, chatting, and socialising. Cory and I shared the front main room at the other end of the house, and its old style, built-in fireplace and lattice walls made me feel as if I’d stepped back in time. I couldn’t believe I was old enough to live with my boyfriend in a house full of boys. And, it didn’t cross my mind that I’d be doing more of the cleaning because I was female. Cleaning was an all in duty or it wasn’t done at all. Maybe I did a bit more washing up, and cooked uninventive meals such as packet pasta with extra vegies for Rod and me when Cory was at work in the evenings, but other than that, we had a great non-gender specific ambience in the house. It made sense the guys cleaned the toilet and scrubbed the bathroom when needed, having the extra muscle power to do those heavy jobs.
I was more career minded and party-focused than domesticated in any way. Therefore, getting to the city for work was very important to me and living in Manly required catching the ferry or hydrofoil (Jetcat) to and from work. I considered myself one of the luckiest girls in the world journeying to work this way, on beautiful Sydney Harbour: rain, hail, or shine, except when riding the waves on stormy days! I often took a Jetcat in the mornings, as it completed the trip in half the time and I was usually running late! No matter how late I was, on arrival at my building, I’d always bound up the stairs to the 13th floor with a freshly squeezed juice in hand, and I’d often clock in at 9.35am, five minutes later than expected…
AFTER A MONTH OF LIVING TOGETHER, Cory and I started talking about travelling overseas: ‘June Planner: Savings for Overseas!’ But, we had a few hic-ups to test us before that time …
I went to bed one evening, read, then fell to sleep, waking a few hours later in a flood of fright finding Cory hadn’t come home from work. I fetched the phone from the other end of the house to plug into the connection in our room and called the local twenty-four hour hotel to look for him, growing further distressed when he wasn’t there. I woke Rob for reassurance, and to share in a much-needed cigarette, even though I was trying to kick the habit, and we had a couple, while he listened with an open ear, as a good friend.
Back in bed, I couldn’t fall to sleep, my mind raced and reared to the tune of where could he be, and who with? A type of slumber did finally come, but soon a taxi sounded out the front. When Cory’s figure appeared at the bedroom door, I questioned, ‘Where have you been, and who with?’ He went to a workmate’s house for drinks after work, and had a few too many. He was quite smashed but still very sorry for causing concern, and would have rung, but had assumed I was sleeping, and didn’t want to wake me. Now it was 5.30 am, and I needed to be up at 7.30 am at the latest, to go to work.
Dragging myself up again two hours later, I managed enough time to shower, dress, and be out the door to run the long run to the ferries. Sometimes, and on this day, a passing car would stop and give me a lift, if going in the direction of the ferries. I would indicate for the drivers to stop with a happy wave gesture, and never the hitchhiking one, knowing this was a maximum risk, but I held a strong trust in human encounters.
My work phone rang sometime later, and I answered in a slightly weary voice, ‘Good morning Marketing’, to Cory’s happy voice: ‘Hello, hello, hello!’
‘Where have you been this time’, I asked, querying why he wasn’t answering the phone. He hadn’t heard it ring; the phone was still in our room at the other end of the house—a distance from the sunroom where he and Rob sat. He was sincerely sorry for worrying me again, and told me about the lecture Rob gave him on the probability of our relationship ending if he continued like last night. Cory touchingly said he didn’t want us to end. He also shared a conversation he had with his Mum that morning. ‘Cory, you have someone else to think about now, and last night was not fair on Suzie’.
ANOTHER TEST CAME at the end of November when a girl from Perth stayed with us. A pretty girl named Kim, friend of Cory, Luke, and family—a girl who had a romantic time with Cory, as I did with Chris. (Cory and I must have sensed each other’s vibrations.) I didn’t know their history when Kim arrived, but soon did. The revelation—I discovered through Rob—didn’t make me angry towards Kim, or Cory, as I had been with Chris during the time we were apart. Still, as my fears and own actions assured, seeds of mistrust existed in our relationship from the very beginning, amid the good.
Mistrust continued to grow one evening after we’d had an out-of-ordinary day. Cory, Kim, and I went on a trip to Sydney on a glorious sunny blue-sky day, and Cory and I decided to indulge in a little portion of a mind-altering substance, of which Kim sensibly declined. This was out of the ordinary; we never took drugs fresh in the day, and rarely took any at all now we lived together. So we proposed a special day, and special it was, until there was trouble…
Following an interesting perusal at the Museum looking at dinosaur fossils and giant bugs etc, we walked along Oxford Street and decided to have afternoon drinks at Gilligan’s, a trendy cocktail bar above The Oxford, overlooking Taylor Square. As usual, the place overflowed with gay guys, dynamic, colourful, and often gorgeous. We enjoyed very potent cocktails, and after a time, a friendly couple sat beside us. Cory sparked it off with them, while Kim and I continued a lively conversation. Cory hit it off particularly well with the girl, but I’d assumed the guy with her was her boyfriend so I wasn’t concerned. Until they went missing!
Suddenly worried, aware of the possibilities, I jumped up and headed for the toilets, arriving as the girl—wearing freshly applied lipstick, came out saying Cory was sick. Racing into the male toilets, I found Cory confused in a cubicle, professing illness from the liquor. I questioned and interrogated him, which brought no clarification, although I hoped his words of innocence were true. He was convincing to a degree, and we left with Kim to hail a taxi out the front.
Assuming the situation safe, I responded to hunger pangs and walked to the take-away shop next-door with Kim. A moment later, we discovered Cory wasn’t with us, so I returned to the front of The Oxford, to find the girl giving him a passionate kiss. Even though he wasn’t reciprocating, he wasn’t refusing either. In hurt astonishment, I pulled Cory a way from her and slapped him across the face. He already looked dumbfounded, and became even more so from the slap. He was out of his senses, puppet-like.
In foolish spontaneity and anticipation of Cory following me, I dashed across the wide road and up a block in the direction of Julie’s house. I thought Cory’s footsteps were running behind me, but I turned to see a worried Kim in toe and was suddenly further anxious realising he was still alone with that girl! I ran back to find the girl had Cory backed up against a wall, this time trying verbally to coax him to her. That prospect was definitely over on my re-arrival, and she went. I then found a little secluded spot to sit and cry, devastated by this simple act of deception. He hadn’t mindfully meant to hurt me, which was somehow worse. I couldn’t trust him out drinking alone and already had fears in this regard.
This was the first real splinter in our relationship…
Chapter Nine: 1990 ~~ Making My Own Way
‘It is the opening of the communication with the external life that makes man wider. Then he does not say of his friend: ‘This is my friend, I love him, but he says: ‘This is myself, I love him.’ That is the time when he can say that he has arrived at the realisation of love. As long as he says: ‘I feel sympathy with him because he is my friend’, his sympathy is not yet fully awakened. The real awakening of his sympathy is on that day when he sees his friend and says, ‘this is myself’. Then the sympathy is awakened, then there is communication with oneself.’ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Early 1990, I gained temporary employment within the Marketing Department of State Super where I had taken work experience. I turned nineteen around this time, and loved the freedom from studies, assignments, and examinations, but this year soon became my most tumultuous and unsettled one yet…
Perfect timing for me to meet two lifetime friends…
Enriching my life from the moment he stepped into in it in April, was Stephen who I met soon after starting at State Super. Stephen was on a working holiday and because he was from England and wearing Doc Martins boots, I automatically assumed he’d go to parties—basing my assumption on the dance party influence of seeing Doc Martins everywhere, hearing cool English music, and a few English voices too. On meeting Stephen, and seeing he fit the bill, I asked, ‘Do you go to dance parties?’ ‘No’ he curiously replied not yet familiar with Sydney dance parties.
Stephen was the newly assigned Public Relations Assistant and I was the Marketing Assistant. With our desks within close proximity, our relationship blossomed working alongside each other. We’d look forward to each day where we’d work and mostly play, singing songs—especially KISS songs, both of us loving the band. He’d proudly tell me about England, which he’d call The Old Dart and I’d dream about visiting my mother’s birthplace when he was there to show me the sights. Our working highlights were organising marketing functions where we’d hire plates of gourmet food for conference attendees, pinching our favourite sandwiches to devour before the conference concluded. We both dreamed about food and another huge highlight for us were the many lunches held at Sydney CBD restaurants for birthday lunches, farewells, and events for employees of the marketing department. Such colourful everyday contact helped us develop a bond that has unconditionally bound us to this day.
Our friendship became so close I told him about my pregnancy, and about my secret wish to see a plastic surgeon. In my mind, I became fixated on regaining the original elasticity and ‘natural’ firmness of my breasts I had before the sad ordeal. I developed a sense of urgency to intervene in attempt to ‘fix’ matters before the natural course of time. I was confused and knew there was nothing natural about plastic surgery, but hoped to do something that would erase the incident. I knew this wasn’t possible, and beat myself up realising I should have been sadder about the baby. But, I believed I had had no hope of keeping my baby, and definitely no control of being able to give it a good life and I didn’t even consider adoption.
So, now I concentrated on something I hoped to have control of and found myself shocked by my rising body disillusion, insecurity, and physical attachment that developed from the admiration I’d received. On some level, I’d associated my identity to my physical appearance and berated myself, thinking I was no longer a carefree happy girl with the future at my feet. As I spoke, Stephen cried and cried, saddened by my experience, offering to assist by paying half if I decided to go through with it.
Ben had also agreed to help for my peace of mind. He came with me to the appointment and waited during my first and only consultation. The female plastic surgeon drew on my chest to gauge any disproportion, and confirmed that my breast tissue had undergone adjustments due to weight gain and loss. Then she affirmed that I didn’t need any work, though she may have proceeded if I’d been adamant, but that wasn’t necessary. I didn’t go back. She confirmed what I needed to hear; giving me peace of mind, and explaining that sometimes it takes a year for breasts to readjust from the unnatural process I’d put my body through. Of course, my punishment continued and my heart continued to break, seemingly beyond repair. I kept this secret.
Brightening my inner turmoil was a girl named Sharee, who soon began working at State Super. We fell in love the moment we met. Our friendship ignited so joyfully and playfully, with a natural spontaneous ease that helped sooth my heart from inner miseries. We held an endearing respect for each other in the workplace, at lunches, and we really knew how to let our hair down when we went for monthly State Super happy hours that went for many hours!
Sharee was a six-foot blonde beauty, and when we danced after having a few drinks, I would forget I wasn’t at a dance party and dance with her like Paul and I would. A movement where I held onto Paul’s sides and zigzagged down his body and up again in time to the music. Again, I must empathise that a girl dancing with a gay guy is a sensual event rather than sexual. Onlookers in the drinking work world viewed this with sexual eyes and so much interest came our way. Feeling cheeky and very alive sometimes we’d play up to it, becoming amorous, but not sexual.
Sharee and I didn’t work in the same department; but, we had lunch together everyday and went to nearby bars after work. We shared a loving, caring conversation that saw us through our highs and lows making us feel like soul-sisters. We knew our love would be ongoing and sublime no matter what! It was so good to have some certainties, especially when my home-life was being uprooted and my psychological heart was still in a mess…
* * *
As we know, when one is at a low ebb, external things come about to reflect inner miseries. At home, Fay represented this for me, as she had totally moved in by this stage.
The rift I didn’t even realise existed between Fay and me, re-sparked when David broke up with Kaz, and came back home for a while. I threw a spanner in the works when I went to visit Kaz as she’d called asking me to. I felt sad for her, knowing how much she loved my brother from all the times I’d shared with them in the past, and we’d built our own friendship by then. Of course, when I was there she told me how much she wanted to speak with Dave, and I reassured her it would be okay to call him.
Mistake! I told Dave on returning home, so he was ready when she phoned at dinnertime; but regrettably, I didn’t tell Dad and Fay. I told them about my visit when Dave was already speaking to Kaz on the phone and tensions rose, as they believed Dave and Kaz were no good for each other and saw no sense in contact. I understood, but didn’t understand Fay’s ferocity, as she dramatically left the kitchen and headed out the back. I instinctively followed her, without looking at Dad, who detested conflict of any kind.
Outside Fay wasn’t interested in peace-making. She seemed to want to strike me, so I told her to hit me if she needed to. Instead, she said, ‘Go, and ring your Mother’.
‘Your mother…really loves you—leaving you when you were seven’.
Knowing Fay had a problem with Mum, I chose to ignore her words, which was easy as they weren’t true. Mum may have left, but she never stopped loving me and nobody could tell me differently, so I didn’t react, and tried to raise the energy by bringing up the coming arrival of her youngest daughter moving into the house (a year my senior). ‘I’m so happy Di is moving in. It means that Dad has a child here and you have a child of your own here too’. Adding that I hoped this was ‘a positive thing for all of us!’
It was positive for a short time, but that was it.
Di and I had no problems getting along when she arrived, and just as expected trouble eased with Fay and me. Di’s presence brought happiness to Fay, and nicer vibrations were in the house for a while. Even still, a situation soon arose that was waiting to happen, due to the lengths some people go to for privacy.
* * *
We had an open door policy in my house when I was growing up, so when Fay had a double-lock secured to the main bedroom door, issues were bound to arise! (Dad and Fay slept in separate bedrooms as she suffered insomnia.) As I didn’t need to enter Fay’s room, the locked door wouldn’t have made a difference. As soon as I noticed, it made one.
Dad and Fay had driven to Brisbane for a marathon Dad was running in. This meant our four-bedroom house had two rooms vacant that I assumed were free when Julie and Louise wanted to visit the following weekend. Louise needed the main bedroom for herself, her husband Ian, and newly-born Bianca. My other niece Alana would bunk with me, and Julie sleep in Dad’s room—David’s old one. When discussing the set-up with Louise on the phone, I was inspired to go turn the doorknob on the main bedroom door that stood ominously closed. And for some reason, I just knew it was going to be locked snap shut.
I called Dad to ask if a spare key was in the house because Louise, Ian, the girls, and Julie were coming up, and all the rooms were needed. A family visit hadn’t happened for a long time, due to lack of room, so if Fay had the key with her then I asked him to have one cut and posted ASAP—dearly hoping she would agree. Dad said he wasn’t happy about the locked door and had felt uneasy driving away. We ended the call hoping for the best.
I dismissed the potential gravity of the situation in innocent hope Fay would be reasonable. Silly me! My call and request was enough to have Fay leave Dad in Brisbane and fly home! Worried she’d take such measures to assert herself, I rang home from work the next day to ensure she was still with Dad and couldn’t believe it was her voice on the line. Once recovered, I collected myself and stated, ‘Dad is the most important person in the world to both of us. You should not have left before he runs the race because he needs your support. If anything happens to him I’ll never forgive you,’ I threatened. Then as an afterthought before hanging up, ‘Don’t worry Fay, you’ve got what you wanted, I’m moving out!’ Realising it was the only solution.
I immediately called her daughter Di at work to speak about the situation and earnestly asked her to encourage her mum’s fast return to Dad, for his own peace of mind and health. Then very gratefully I said, ‘It’s wonderful we can still be friends regardless of what happens with our parents, unlike many other families’, adding that I didn’t want it to change! She seemed friendly and agreeable. I spent that night at Julie, Paul, and Daniel’s to give Di time alone with Fay.
Next day Di told me Fay was flying back to Dad. I felt better, but there was still no progress with the locked bedroom, as Fay hadn’t left the key. Because of this, Louise, Ian, and the girls went to Ian’s family house in Gosford to spend the weekend, and Julie came by herself. As Saturday night passed by, Julie and I were surprised to find our house did have an extra unlocked room free by way of Di’s, who didn’t come home all weekend!
Sensations of injustice took over me! I stated that they were actually family, not strangers, and I had used her bedroom from ages three to 15. I affirmed that Louise and Ian would not have touched anything, and they would have changed the sheets. She said she didn’t care and belonged in the house more than I belonged, as she paid rent. Previously unaware of her situation and not expecting a monetary confrontation of any type, I took the bait, for it was true—I hadn’t started paying board yet. In childish retaliation, I said she was lucky to own her mum’s brand new car, since her mum now used Dad’s. It went back and forth like this in the kitchen. A couple of friends were in the lounge room playing music so they didn’t know what was happening, but were aware of my unhappiness.
Once there she accusingly questioned, ‘What’s going on?’ My genuine reply brought fast understanding to her mind, ‘Absolutely nothing, I am not fighting with her! But I’m upset because she wouldn’t allow my family to sleep in her room one night, and we needed it, as there is no access to the main bedroom as your mother bolted the door’. Lea, seeing and feeling my honesty, softened and consoled me. ‘Mum and Di are very alike and very private people, and have always been like that. I’m more relaxed and laid back like your family.’ Then we spoke about David, as she had a soft spot for him—a conversation we’d had before.
The commotion of the Di quandary evaporated in our friendliness, and I offered to go make amends. Lea advised me it would be better leaving Di alone and thought she would be okay by the morning.
Problems re-ignited at the front door that evening. Normally only the security fly-wire door was locked, to which I had a key, but on this evening, the main door was locked also. I knocked several times, sensing Di was home. Receiving no response, I gained entry by walking round the back. Seeing Di propped up against the lounge, in pyjamas, eating her dinner with a smug expression, stirred my feelings. ‘Thank you for not opening the door,’ I said tongue-in-cheek while heading up to my bedroom. In my safe haven, I dispelled festering sensations of disdain with loud sighs!
Once out of my work clothes, and feeling somewhat lighter, I told Di I had friends visiting again, but she was welcome to be here, as we would work around her. Although I meant this, my tone implied differently because she had locked the front door and ignored my knocks. Di responded with warning of Dad and Fay’s imminent return, and the coming trouble. I immediately went to the phone to dissuade their return, but realised another call might backfire, like my first that caused Fay to fly home. Hoping this would not happen and that Di was fibbing, I retreated into Nanna’s unit.
Now that the ordeal was turning nasty, I relayed the encounter to Nanna. She looked serious and concerned, but didn’t say anything. In silent confusion, she tried merging my account with Di’s altered version. Then, suddenly, Di was at the sliding door. ‘Suzie you are very rude!’ and wailed accusations in front of Nanna, which was rude. I was standing behind Nanna and made jester-like motions, moving my hands about, making facial expressions, mocking her dramatic demeanour. Nan didn’t see this and was surprised Di grew even more upset, storming back in the house, then roaring off in her car soon after.
Di wasn’t to return that evening, but she left evidence of her wrath by taking the needle from the stereo player. Fay’s later model replaced our old family stereo, and Di asserted ownership by taking the needle. This was only the beginning! Alicia and I ventured into her room to see if we could find it, but no luck. The only evidence of our entry was the door ajar, which I left to annoy her. Not nice doing something for that purpose, but I was sick of being nice and misunderstood. Back in the lounge room, the tape player was undisturbed, so we listened to melodic tunes through cassettes.
I entered my home with trepidation the next evening and this time found the entire stereo missing! As well as, the electric heater, which was the only one useable because our oil heater wasn’t working, and since it was winter, I was certain to miss it. Other necessity items of her mother’s were missing. Any photos reflecting the Palmer family were backwards on the cabinet. A beautiful big photo of our Old English Sheep dogs was gone. It was so strange being in my home in a family warfare. The house was so odd, with important pieces of furniture missing, someone else’s family looking at me from the cabinet, and an air of resentment never so hostile even when David and Julie were at their wildest. I almost wished for those days again, because everything was familiar, even their arguments involved some type of family feeling.
As Di was a body builder/fitness fanatic like Fay, it wasn’t a surprise she moved the stereo and other items on her own. Except to where? Until I noticed, she too had a double security lock fitted on her door. With that, I gave my old bedroom door a swift kick with my Doc Martin shoes, leaving a small imprint of my anger. Although Dad’s response was a concern, I felt a sense of satisfaction leaving a mark in defiance of those locks and bolts! I readjusted and reversed the photos so her family portraits now faced the wrong way, and although I left them that way, I didn’t feel any better. Our Old English Sheep dogs’ portrait remained missing…
Di called me at work the next day. She was home, having stayed away two nights. ‘Suzie you’re in big trouble…you’re going to be kicked out! How dare you kick my bedroom door’! With that, she put the receiver on the bench, and raced around the kitchen banging pots and pans, making a mighty racket. Hearing enough I put the phone down, and cried from my mounting upset and weariness of it all. Stephen comforted me, as well as Mum, Louise, and Julie when I rang and later saw them. They all had a running commentary of the situation because there was no reason not to, and now the absurd had occurred, I breached Dad’s request for the silence he had asked me to maintain since the fight with Fay a year and a half earlier, telling Mum, Louise, and later Julie of the difficulties back then. They couldn’t believe I had kept this from them for so long, but understood my respect for Dad’s wishes.
I decided not to go to work the following day, and instead, guard the home front from what I saw as lunacy in every way. Fortunately, Ben also had a day off, because Di arrived mid-morning with a different sister from the other night. I called hello to them as if nothing had happened, but when Di stood on a chair and had difficulty unbolting her bedroom door, I couldn’t resist saying, ‘having a bit of trouble there Di?’ I should have resisted, my amusement and mere voice would have escalated her aversion… I couldn’t understand why she was feeling so much loathing, and believed her mum was a big influence. It felt eerie having such hatred thrust towards me!
Ben and I retreated to my room to give them privacy. What we did there was very naughty under the circumstance. We had a cone of marijuana, inspiring me to be frivolous and cheeky. For I decided, we should be downstairs in my own house.
Di had gained entry by this time, and as she was leaving the house, I refrained from asking about the missing items, even the heater that remained locked away in her room unused. As she walked out, she told me to get my things and go, because Dad and Fay would be home any minute. She then called me an ‘f-ing c’, which shocked me. Because I knew Dad would never kick me out, I said, ‘The ring isn’t on your mum’s finger yet’, suggesting Fay’s entire hold wasn’t over Dad yet. It’s a shame we spoke at all, for her sister Noreen then said her bit, which had Ben saying his bit—who was outraged over the treatment I was receiving and told them they had no right to talk to me like that. I appreciated someone standing up for me.
In the midst of this, and to end it, I played music through my little tape recorder, loudly. I was elated for Di to hear music playing despite the missing stereo, and happier still at drowning out useless dialect. My instinct was to dance in a careless, carefree way. This had the desired effect; they departed the house quick smart. At the window to see them off, my smiling, and dancing continued in seeming victory of such silliness. I was being silly, because the whole ordeal was just that! But I wasn’t happy, knowing my place was no longer in this home, being no match against Fay and Di… An all-in dispute was on the horizon and it wasn’t in Dad’s nature to stand up for me in the way I needed. I was also yet to know he would direct his rage towards me!
My main mission that day was to tell David and Kaz I was leaving, which needed to be done in person, as they had no phone. Yes, Dave and Kaz did get back together because of that phone call just as Dad feared, but that would have happened regardless of my input since they obviously had unfinished business. Alas, they weren’t home when Ben and I arrived and still weren’t when it turned dark.
We were waiting in the corner coffee shop when their car finally turned into the street. I was growing distressed with intense stomach pains, and the coffee shop didn’t have a toilet! We ran, as fast as possible, but on reaching their veranda, my body could wait no more. I raced around the side of the house utterly embarrassed in the throws of poohing my pants. ‘They don’t call me Pooey for nothing’, I declared, making humour of a bad and unusual situation. Once sorted and clean, I told David about the disturbing events and my intention to move into Julie’s for awhile, as Julie had lovingly offered her side of the bed. Dave had some insight into Fay’s nature because she often put Dad down in front of him. So, he had never really liked her, and was outraged about my ordeal but that was that.
We had a customary smoke and then returned home where the saga continued! This time Di locked me out of the house—lock, stock, and barrel. Front doors, windows, heavy sliding door (which was never locked), and each back door, locked! Nanna wasn’t home out the back, and my house stood in foreboding darkness, inaccessible and horribly bleak. Before Ben found access through David’s old bedroom window that was far too high for me, I finally broke down and cried. This cruel game had gone excessively far. The situation was foreign, and I couldn’t continue playing along with such craziness.
I went to the next-door neighbour’s house to ring Dad about the nightmare ordeal and current lock-out circumstance but again the memory of my last call stopped me in my tracks before reaching their door. I truly didn’t want to bring Dad more disturbance regarding these foreign affairs inside and now outside the home. Dad’s philosophy of not being disturbed on holidays—and holidays were rare—made me decide not to call him. So I did the right thing, I thought, by abandoning the idea of calling to complain. Later, in the wonderful light of hindsight, I realised I should have been true to myself, and reached for his support.
Ben let me in on return, and once inside the feelings of rage and despair continued to rise as I sat on the toilet with another bout of the runs, my stomach expressing the bombarding nauseous emotions I’d been feeling. Emotions that increased even more when we discovered the clothes dryer in operation, tumbling round and round without articles inside, making the laundry sauna-like.
It was ALL too much…and now my need to leave home was without doubt. Next morning, I composed notes to stick on Di’s bedroom door and the laundry (back) door. The first started with: ‘You Bitch, how dare you lock me outside my own house!’ written with angry strokes in thick black marker! Unlike my opponent, I left the backdoors open so she could gain sensible entry into a formerly sensible house, acting from lifelong commonsense, but still feeling like the victim of vengeful acts and words, and justified to express my torment by the sword of truth…that is the pen!
I plastered the notes on her bedroom door: ‘How dare you call me an ‘f’n c’. ‘How dare you lock up the heater, the… etc’, and so forth, knowing Di would show Dad and Fay these notes, which supports me having written only the necessity. But, I never imagined she would actually leave the notes to greet Dad and Fay.
Di set up the laundry scene for Dad’s benefit as well. That is, the light was on with the dryer functioning and no clothing inside, which Di said was ‘Suzie’s doing’. He was outraged to think his daughter could be in such a fury… me, who had never even been in a rage, let alone cause damage. I was also aware such an activity would be harmful to the environment; a drainage on electricity; not to mention the possibility of burning down my family house; Nanna’s place; the cats; and my beautiful dog Katie. Dad should have realised I wouldn’t do that, but the power over him at the time made it hard for him to feel his heart. So, although I was bewildered, I have never held it against him.
The sight of notes stuck to the doors and the crying shaking wreck that was Di—the apparent victim, overcame Dad’s intuition. He was wild! Luckily, I wasn’t home to stand to my defence as I’d had no other choice but to move out! The day after Di had converted my home into Fort Knox, I packed my boomerang-pillow, some clothes and loaded those into the boot of my friend Andrew’s car, leaving for Sydney with Alicia, Andrew, and Ben to attend a party at Ziggurats nightclub in the Cross, called Strawberry Fields… And, to begin a new life. I took some stimulants there, which helped to alleviate the distress of the past week, as well as relieve my reoccurring stomach upset. I can still see myself dancing in the midst of the crowd, feeling sad and stunned.
Julie, and friends Karla and Trish, arrived to collect me in the brightness of the morning, where the night was still going! A night filled with disco lights bleeping, music pumping, people dancing and moving about with vitality and joy, and others deep in interested conversation away from the dance floor, or some simply looking on. We dragged ourselves away and as we transferred bags from car to car, Karla expressed great sympathy having been in similar positions. It was a very strange feeling to me and so alien, as this sort of carry-on had never occurred within our family. I was sad to have left home in such a way and much sadder leaving Dad that way … Dad who had always been the hero of my life, Julie often called me ‘Dad’s little shadow’ when I was little. It showed me that not all things happen as naturally expected, especially if opposition wants otherwise. I comforted myself that things would change.
It was in this way I came to live in Sydney at approximately 19 years and five months. Julie, Paul, and Daniel, welcomed me into their happy apartment in Surrey Hills, directly across from the Sydney Show Grounds and the Hordern Pavilion. Never a dull moment, weeknights were also social nights, and the weekends now spilled onto the weekdays. I enjoyed every day anew. I was so lucky to be living with Paul and Daniel… my favourite gay couple! A very special time, and my relationship with Julie also grew especially since I shared her double bed! I was grateful she took me in so caringly, and began to believe that she really did love me.
* * *
Mum encountered the negativity I left behind in Woy Woy when she rang the house early the following day, not knowing of my sudden change of circumstance. Dad and Fay had returned early as warned, and Dad was outraged. Aware of the ongoing crisis, Mum tried to defend me, but he was too furious to listen, ‘You don’t know Susan like you think you do’ her ‘personality has changed and she uses drugs'. Fay had found for him a porcelain bong under my bed, I’d long forgotten was even there. I only remembered when Mum told me of Fay’s discovery, as it belonged to Andrew and was unused, hidden under my bed as a favour to Andrew as he’d bought the bong while still living at home and didn’t want his mother finding it. Obviously, it had been forgotten, otherwise, Andrew would have taken it the night he helped me move, or I would have taken it to Sydney if it was mine. Aside from that, I did indulge in drugs, but not heavily, and they hadn’t altered my natural demeanour.
Mum was shocked. She had never heard Dad speak in such tones, and especially about me. She could hear he was speaking out of temper, influenced by people who obviously didn’t know me or know our type of people.
Dad’s voice was calm and controlled when we spoke on the phone two days later and arranged to meet to discuss. Once we were sitting at a table for two at the Woy Woy Pizza Hut, I repeatedly repeated the entire episode and each time he would say, ‘Tell me again’, and again! This was the first (and last) time he exuded such distrust towards me. I couldn’t believe he simply wouldn’t believe me, and his confusion grew as he received a description so contrary to Di’s version. In Di’s story, I had physically abused her the night of the argument, pulled from her bed, and ordered her to move out. This reportedly occurred after my amicable conversation with Lea. Interesting that Di was a body builder, so for me to overpower her physically, sheer temper could have been my only emotion.
I inaccurately denied one thing. The name I called her that night, having wiped it from my memory. Di was adamant and distressed about me calling her a name, and told him I was guilty of this even if nothing else had happened. I was adamant about not calling her any names especially that one, having never used such a thing, shocked she had come up with it. Why out of all the fibs would she want Dad to believe that the most? Until months later, the memory hit me like a ton of bricks, the muttering of that wrathful, twisted adjective, which sprang from nowhere. I instantly sought forgiveness, but as time had lapsed, I didn’t wish to re-ignite it with Dad. I contemplated how to broach the subject, but couldn’t muster the courage, feeling justified that an innocent lie is better than wilfully manufactured ones.
THE REAL AGITATION in the Woy Woy brew was evident a few months after the ordeal, when Julie and I stayed a Saturday night. It began when Fay showed disapproval towards Julie for using the phone twice to call Sydney. In reaction, I told Julie that Fay and Di had two lengthy showers a day, so the accounts would somehow balance. Fay heard and her face quickly expressed vehemence, causing me to retreat hastily to the front steps. No escape, Fay was soon standing over me pulling my plaits, pointing, and saying fiery things I can’t remember. She was showering spittle on me in the process, so I kept saying, ‘Stop spitting at me Fay’. Julie hastily ended the call and came to tell Fay to, ‘stop pulling her hair, and ‘leave her alone!’ I remained placid and non-reactionary, relieved a family member was witnessing this. They’d heard of Fay’s outbursts, but no one had seen them, until now.
What happened next confirms the dilemma with Di was never between us. Moving from the steps to leave Fay arguing with Julie, I entered the house as Di walked towards me in the hallway. ‘Di, what’s wrong with your mum?’ I asked puzzle-faced, and she replied with empathetic bewilderment, ‘I don’t know’. That’s all we said to each other, enough to affirm truce, and highlight that the problem was never between us, or ours. Whenever Di answered the phone to me over coming months, we would be pleasant, and this remained so in rare and future encounters.
* * *
Counteracting all negativity, soon after moving into Julie’s, the most special thing happened one sunny, Saturday afternoon. Julie and I walked across South Dowling Street to the Sydney Showground stables, to go horse riding through Centennial Park. We found the riding-school section but no one was in sight, so we decided to look at the privately owned horses. After a time admiring and patting some horses, I was wonder struck. Suddenly, Alpine was before our eyes! That is my Alpine!
‘Julie, there’s Alpine!’
But, Julie didn’t believe me, ‘How could that be Alpine? It’s not Alpine.’
‘Of course it is, I’d know my own horse anywhere,’ and almost instantly a girl arrived, and for Julie’s benefit, I said, ‘What is this horse’s name?’
Her reply was as expected, ‘Alpine, and he’s so lovely!’
‘I know! He was my horse,’ I cried in elation!
As if time had never lapsed, I opened the stable door, and there he was—my long lost baby! I couldn’t believe my luck to be in his presence again. This was beyond coincidence. I questioned his confinement in a Sydney city stable, and although sad for him, my joy eclipsed concerns just then. Alpine didn’t nicker or neigh in recognition as he would in the movies, he simply lowered his head in gesture of familiarity; his energy was calm and trusting. Oh, it was a dream seeing him again, to smell, to pat, and love him! His coat was as soft and silky as I remembered and his muzzle was still like velvet to touch. Heavenly and bright, he stood like the incredible creature he had always been. Oh, my first love!
Julie watched in amazement, visibly touched, in her own tears of joy. I asked the girl about Alpine’s circumstance and she explained that Sue (the lady who bought him) had moved him in a share arrangement with a girl named Peta, who rode him regularly; adding she normally came Saturday afternoons. As it was Saturday afternoon, I asked her to tell Peta we’d be riding in Centennial Park, and I would love to meet her and see Alpine.
We hired our horses and had a nice canter around Centennial Park. Still in the park but on the home stretch, I spotted Alpine crossing the road coming into the grounds. He was still toey and bouncy, and I connected with his rider. Oh, to be back on his back again. The memory and desire evoked all the old sensations of excitement and risk inside me!
Peta was very friendly and offered me to ride him. Yes please! After an adjustment of the stirrups, I settled into the saddle on his back. Julie waited with Peta and the horses while we proceeded to circle Centennial Park! It was unbelievable to comprehend that I was actually riding Alpine again, and in my party stomping ground—the Sydney Showground/the Hordern were less than five minutes ride away. ‘Steady Steady, Steady Boy, Steady Alpine,’ saying those words after so long was a divine dream come true.
All around activity was aplenty, and the sensation from old days quickly returned. Like the wind, at any moment in any direction, Alpine could blow. To avoid sudden fright, I pointed his nose this way or that to divert his attention away from possible causes of anxiety. We managed a steady trot, but as always, he pulled and itched to move faster!
We turned into a clear paddock in the middle of the park so I could ride him without fear of dangerous distractions, and run through his gaits in our old style of play. When we moved into a canter, Alpine lifted his hindquarters in a pig-root/bucking action that surprised me! He had never lifted his hind legs before; he was far too well behaved. I thought such a vice didn’t exist in his nature! I didn’t know then that his saddle may have been ill-fitted and pinching his belly; instead, I worried about what had he been through to develop this naughty behaviour. My desire to continue working him that way instantly vanished. He obviously didn’t enjoy it anymore and I wasn’t going to force him into doing anymore workouts, after what seemed a lifetime of doing them together. We deserved an easy ride.
We continued on the track at a merry, yet careful walking-trot. The feeling was rosy until we approached a scary contraption to our left: a steel stage. Alpine didn’t disappoint me with non-reaction. On nearing, he increasingly became my dancing-horse again, prancing and dancing, drawing attention! Alpine still had it and it still did it for me; triggering my nerves and wariness, inspiring secret sighs of relief when I safely dismounted. Alpine was not a city horse; he should never have been brought to Sydney. He needed paddocks and mountain tracks, and given free rein to gallop the apprehension out of both him and rider! Alpine didn’t suit Sydney’s pace and that’s all there was too it. Unlike his old mum!
Seeing Alpine again was a blessing! Unaware at the time of just how incredible, I knew our meeting was more than special and more than a coincidence.
After that, I saw Alpine only twice more. I don’t know why! The second time was again with Julie, when we took Alana in the pram. Alpine was gorgeous sniffing her head so inquisitively. The last time I saw Alpine was with a friend named Matty, and we shared a beautiful time with Alpine in his stable loving him. Alpine hadn’t lost his placid, lovable nature, letting me pat him everywhere, move underneath him, and he’d kiss my face when I stood under his head. I loved all of him… his soft brown eyes, the glossy fur on his neck, stroking his velvet muzzle, and even the velvet around his bottom, underneath his tail! I didn’t visit him again after this, and the tragic reason escapes me.
Peta called me a few months later, offering me to take over the training and payments for Alpine’s upkeep. I couldn’t believe I had an opportunity to have him and riding back. But, I’d already moved on from sharing a happy home with Julie and the boys, to living over an hour south away at my Mum’s at Caringbah near Cronulla. It wasn’t possible due to the distance, and I now spent most my most weekends going out, and the rest of the time I was often with Louise, Ian, and my nieces. This was a self-indulgent period. The responsibility of keeping Alpine happy, healthy, and funded was beyond my realistic means. So Alpine or not, I couldn’t have him again, but dearly appreciated being asked. My decision ends up being a good thing for him, since he was soon moved back to the paddocks from whence he came.
* * *
Nightlife and dancing was central to my life, and friends were aplenty within it. During this time, I developed another unique relationship on the gay front. This was with Simon who was gay like Paul, but we were destined to share more. I felt like one of the boys when I was with Paul or Simon, and would often say, ‘I feel like a man inside a girl’s body’, ‘stuck’ inside even.
Paul and I danced and circulated throughout parties. I think he especially loved me because of my natural ease to dance with the friendliest, happiest people in the crowd. We gravitated towards fantastic dancers, and loved sharing good energy exchanges while moving to the beat of unbelievable, rhythmic tunes. The bass pumped penetratingly with every sound, simultaneously increasing the heart to pound in pace. Mind and body were enlivened, resulting not only from the nature of the stimulants inside me, but ultimately from the biochemical reactions created by the thoughts and feelings running through my mind. To be entranced by sounds, as well as by the potent energies emitting from so many dynamic people naturally caused you to buzz with sensations of bliss! It’s a logical, rational scientific reality.
Because of these effects plus those from ecstasy, partygoers often viewed the DJ with a godlike reverence; full of gratitude for satisfying dancing desires. The DJ’s would feed us the music of their imagination, intuitively able to sense what the party needed most, at what hours, and in what sequence.
I can’t discuss DJs without mentioning the glorious Brent who excelled at DJ-ing, and Brent can’t be mentioned without attributing the positive example he was to me at parties. He never indulged in drug taking, yet would stay up all night dancing happily and energetically. Brent presented opportunities for me not to partake with the majority, but at the time, I needed to experience and not renounce! I was so happy to be conscious of the presence of purity in its pure sense, even within the vibrating, sexy pool of the gay ‘thang’!
The euphoric effects of the atmosphere inside and out, enticed everyone to dance in absolute celebration of life! I always loved life, and at those times, I was in love with the wild glory of it. Fellow dance partiers glowed with that same ecstatic look; expressed through body language, in tune with the rhythm. A momentary look into a stranger’s eyes could send you off into a flowing vibrational exchange, whether by dancing, hugging, or just a beaming ‘Hello isn’t life wonderful!’ smile! I met so many potentially real friends in those times but too much was happening in every moment to opportune a number exchange. Many of the friends I did stay in touch with are in my life to this day… Dance parties were a celebration of life, people, and love, and for that, God couldn’t be angry!
At these parties, Simon and I began to share a strong connection. More laid back than Paul and me, we would travel around parties dancing in different areas, or sit on the bitumen amongst many other colourful people, away from the dancing halls. We loved to talk and usually we’d spend time admiring or talking about guys, usually gay guys. It was such fun treating Simon like a girlfriend, who although a man, was more like a girlfriend being comfortably in touch with his feminine side. And, I felt safe from the sexual pursuits of my special gay boys.
Until, out of nowhere, Simon and I did begin romanticising! It was at Lindy’s Girls Night Out, which I’d invited Simon too because he was one of the girls, when I noticed a different glint in his eye, causing my tummy to un-expectantly back-flip. From that initial sparking, it was only a matter of time before we kissed, which felt natural when it came, because of our affection for each other. From there, he would sleep beside me in bed where we’d kiss, tickle, and cuddle, but that would be all. It was only over one evening—the night of Lindy’s wedding—that we took our love further. We held this experience as very sacred and precious for we knew it was a love that could not be; Simon was definitely a gay guy and naturally unable to fill heterosexual shoes. Here is a special letter he sent to me quite a few months later:
You probably think it a little strange to receive a letter from me, but I’m at work with not a lot to do and as usual you are in my thoughts. Besides there are a lot of things I would really like to say to you. Things that don’t usually crop up in our every day conversation. Probably because they are feelings more so than thoughts and I find it difficult sometimes to convey my true feelings for fear of leading you into false hope or sounding vain. When I say vain, I mean vain enough to think that what I say may lead you anywhere.
I Love you Suzie, in a way that is so special. A kind of love that I did not know before you. A kind of love that is, I know, very rare between a gay boy and a good girl.
As you know, I have a lot of friends who are girls. All of these girls vary and alternate in their importance as friends. But you never vary. You are first on my list.
I have thought about this a lot just lately and now I really understand it.
I see very clearly a girl who is simply a better friend than any other, and on top of that your friendship has gone beyond friendship and I thank you for that with all my soul. I will always treasure it and remain very proud of it.
The one thing I treasure you for even more is honesty. When I am with you I can be honest and I feel honesty flowing from you, and it is this I love more than anything.
Suzie, you are an individual in the purest sense of the word and your importance to me is beyond measure. The way I see and perceive you is the way that you truly are, Gorgeous on the outside and beautiful on the inside. I know you will never change and I also know that the way I feel for you will never change.
The only regret I have is that I cannot change the way I am. Please believe me when I say that it is so confusing being able to feel for you the way I do and not being able to really do anything about it. I’m so sorry.
Really though my main message in all of this is that I hope that you feel as lucky as I do when we’re together.
Your Gay Boy Forever S xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox’
Chapter Eight: 1989 ~~ Coming of Age
Dance parties, College, and a very sad occurrence
‘What is pain? Pain, in the real sense of the word, is the deepest joy. If one has imagination, one can enjoy tragedy more than comedy. Comedy is for children, tragedy is for the grown-up. It is through pain that a person becomes an old soul. A person may be young in age, but deep in thought.’ Hazrat Inayat Khan
BY THE TIME I WAS FINALLY FREE from school at nearly 18, I was surprised that the thought of finding a job scared me. Thirteen years of schooling didn’t prepare me at all. I wasn’t ready for work. Most things I’d learnt at school didn’t make sense to the world. So, I definitely needed training.
I discussed this with Dad on a night his partner Fay was sitting beside him on the couch. It hadn’t occurred to me we should have been alone!
I had assumed Dad would support me. But when I suggested doing an extra year, studying a specific field plus business topics to feel confidently employable, his response surprised me: ‘It doesn’t matter if you sweep the streets, at least you’ll have a job’. I was shocked and tears came to my eyes … tears frustrated him.
Fay couldn’t contain her fury that seemed to come from nowhere. In a huff of agitation, she rose from the couch and stood over me pointing her fingers, saying indiscernible things while contorting her face. I was dumbfounded. Dad tried to quiet her, ‘Sit down Fay. Sit down’. Dad and I weren’t used to this.
At last, Fay finished and raced upstairs saying, ‘You can have each other, I’m leaving’.
‘Look what’s happened now’, Dad said as he walked towards the front door. Confused and feeling guilty, I watched as Dad stepped outside and quietly closed the door behind him, and then instinctively rushed to see Fay wildly irate in Dad’s bedroom. I apologised and tried to cuddle her, reassuring that she was important to Dad and to me because she was there for him, saying that the last thing I wanted was for Dad to be alone. Fay stiffened yet allowed my hug, which was good enough for me because she wasn’t an affectionate person.
It worked. Peace enough was back in the house when Dad returned from walking in the park. He asked me not tell Mum or my sisters about what happened with Fay. I reasoned that his objection to my extra study and Fay’s reaction was because they wanted to be free of childhood responsibilities, which I understood, but I believed my independence could only come by gaining actual work skills, and Dad knew I couldn’t wait to be independent.
Not deterred by the flare-up, I looked for a suitable course during the next few days, and found Passmore’s College of Business. They offered what I needed, but the course ran for a year. I informed Dad about the length of the course when Fay wasn’t around and he reacted positively like the Dad I’d always known, giving me the go ahead to enrol onto the Marketing and Business Diploma Course.
My future career was now on track with Dad’s generous financial back-up and blessing. But before it even had a chance to begin, I was thrust into a world of colourful grown ups—a world where I felt I belonged. Even though I should have found a part-time job to pay off the $4000 dollar education fee, I didn’t even consider that mature option, and I took a walk on the wild side a month off turning 18, and went to a New Year’s Eve Rat dance party at the Sydney Hordern Pavilion with my best party friend Alicia, my sister Julie, Julie’s boyfriend Peter, and Alicia’s boyfriend Andrew.
In the company of thousands of homosexual men, lesbians, transvestites, and fewer heterosexuals, I was truly walking on the wild side, especially when I tried my first ecstasy pill! Ecstasy (MDMA) is a mind-stimulating substance, first developed in Germany 1912, patented in 1914, but no one discovered its real use until the 1970s when used in small doses as a relationship counselling drug to aid talk therapy. The American military showed a fleeting interest in ecstasy during the 1950s, experimenting with its psychedelic chemicals in search of a ‘truth serum’. In the 1960s legendary latter-day alchemist Alexander Shulgin rediscovered it and wrote that everything he saw and thought had been ‘brought about by a fraction of a gram of a white solid… I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyse its availability’.
Ecstasy really emerged in the late Eighties and Nineties, hitting the dance party scene, widely expressed at large scale gay events. For the first time in history, the gay community were coming together and celebrating! Ecstasy was opening avenues and hearts; it was a revolution of the gay spirit. ‘Empathy’ was to be its original name according to urban myth, because that’s a very true description of what it could do. Warm-hearted, connected, love-thy-neighbour feelings are primary to the Ecstasy experience. It’s more sensual than sexual and makes a great recreation drug and a valuable therapeutic remedy.
For the fun of it, Alicia and I divided the little white tablet. It crumbled a bit, and had a bitter taste, but about a half an hour later we were euphoric. Ecstasy lived up to its name! Everything felt wonderful. Intense, pleasurable feelings showed all over our faces… big smiles, big eyes, big love. My self-confidence increased along with my energy, feeling peaceful, accepting, full of empathy, and even more than that, ecstatic! Invisible air jets sprouted under our feet; we had lift-off with every step! I danced as one with the music, feeling close to others, drawn to dance and interact with everyone and anyone! Our hearts pounded to the beat as the energetic music compelled us on. To dance was to rejoice! And we rejoiced!
I was in my element! All around us, men were dancing… rhythmical, sexy, erotic, cool, and masculine! We’d never imagined men would go to such lengths to dress in provocative get-ups and give attention to their hair, faces, brown bodies… making them look like models. Neither had we seen men dancing with men! Everyone danced so well… and, crème de la crème of the celebrations were transvestites putting on extra unique and colourful spectacles, as if they came from another world.
Laser beams often flooded the high vaulted ceilings of the Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries to enhance the atmosphere. Beams would catch the reflections of hanging mirror balls and light up the faces of vibrant dancers and people resting, watching, or kissing in the grandstands. Everyone vibrated with utter passion, passion that spilled outside onto the surrounding grounds where people partied under the stars. The massed bodies, decorations, lights, drugs, costumes and music created a powerful sense of belonging, shared circumstance, and vitality! Open and free, thousands of upbeat characters moved around interacting with others through body language, humour, dance, and smiles. The ambience embraced uniqueness. The word of these parties was LOVE, and I was lucky to be there! People were so friendly and inviting. I felt welcomed wherever I went, and knew I belonged in this weird and wonderful world, bursting with every colour of life in our light system!
The 12 o’clock song in the Royal Hall of Industries was ‘The only way is up’ by Yazz, and I was way up! Riding the upper of a lifetime, we never wanted to end. Alas, three or four hours later the effects wore off and Alicia and I wanted more. Another half and we were whirling, buzzing, bopping to the music again. Singer Grace Jones was the star performer of the evening but I was too busy dancing to catch more than two glimpses of her! It was soon daylight and the party thinned to a remaining crowd of hardcore partygoers.
January 1 marked the beginning of my mind’s expansion. I began to see the world as potential playground full of colourful people wishing to have fun and share love! Life could never be the same.
* * *
I felt like a woman-of-the-world on starting college after my eighteenth birthday. It was good being in a classroom situation again, but restricting after the long summer break filled with an extraordinary party life. Even so, I mounted the college swing!
At the same time, my nocturnal studies continued to be my focus and I went to the world famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras soon after college began. Not only did I go: I was in the parade with Alicia, my stepbrother Mike and his friends Dan and Ryan! Dan knew the organisers of a float promoting a forthcoming Meltdown Sweatbox dance party and we volunteered to hand out flyers beside the float as it went along in the parade, in hope to get into the Mardi Gras party for free.
We parked at the Sydney Showground—home of Mardi Gras’, Sleaze Balls, and dance parties, - and walked four kilometres to the floats’ assembly point. The members of the Meltdown Sweatbox float were happy to have us walk beside them distributing flyers; but no one said we’d get in free. Our float was last to move along the path through Sydney, first walked in 1978. In the early years, the parade was much smaller and suffered abuse from spectators and police. Many were afraid of the people who held banners high to the tune of: ‘We’re Queer and we’re Here’!
It was all fun initially; but, I began feeling paranoid a third of the way through the procession. People began throwing paper in our direction and I felt hostility coming from a small pocket of the onlookers. I suddenly realised that people assumed I was gay too, which would have been a complement to me if I had been a man because the thought of a girl with a girl was still uncomfortable to me. At one point, I held Mike by the arm and called, ‘I’m not gay, he’s not gay’, making me feel instantly dreadful considering the parade I was in. Discrimination is what gay people have tolerated for too long and I suddenly had a tiny glimpse of how it would feel being in a minority. As we moved along the parade, the spectators beside the road hung over barricades singing out Happy Mardi Gras and celebrating in high spirits! I even spotted Mum among the onlookers and jumped through barricades to give her a big cuddle. The supporters were the majority.
We arrived at the Showground with tired legs and couldn’t automatically get in as we’d hoped. The tickets were $30. Alicia and I had $35 each. If we bought a ticket, we couldn’t afford ecstasy. To be in there all night, trying to dance and stay awake a la natural, was not an exciting prospect… one we didn’t even consider!
So, we decided to sneak in. Darting around the central arena of the Sydney Show Ground, we found our way through darkness to a wire fence separating us from the party. Without hesitation Dan, Ryan, then Mike climbed the fence and headed for the crowd. As they were climbing, Alicia and I saw a security guard in the distance and we needed to be quick. Almost over, the guard turned and saw us but looked away. Perhaps he thought if they want to be here that badly then they deserve to come in! We were so happy to be inside, and believed we deserved it after our input during the march!
A happy Mardi Gras was had all nightlong… a night that went in slow motion, especially when Alicia and I took half a ‘Trip-ecstasy’ each! It was a half magic mushroom (LSD), half ecstasy concoction and although the effects were mild, everything changed motion. Unmoving high ski lifts began moving, even though no one was aboard. Wherever we looked movement sped up or slowed down according to what music we were listening to at the party. In different areas, musicians and performers entertained … at times we were in Africa, others South America or Europe… we were amazed by the variety of faces and diversity of presence. People from all lifestyles had come together.
Guys and girls dancing to 'Stand Up for Your Love Rights' (by Yazz), performed the main show around 2 am, rocking the house. When morning light eventually poured through high windows in the Government Pavilion, white confetti dropped from the roof appearing like fresh fluffy snowflakes coating the floor. As I danced in this surreal fairyland, surrounded by dynamically diverse dancing people, I wondered what it would be like to need to stand up for my love rights! My respect grew for people of alternative sexual persuasion.
ALICIA AND I HAD A LIFT back to the Central Coast at eight in the morning. The party had two hours remaining, yet we managed to drag ourselves away from the fun so I could arrive home in time for a short rest and shower, before Dad took me to Church. I wasn’t going to a Sunday Mass for repentance, but to a Christening ceremony for my Godson, Christopher, and arrived just before everyone stood, taking my place beside my best friend Lindy, who was elated to see me. She knew where I’d been and that I hadn’t slept, but she trusted me, knowing how important I believed it was to be the Godmother of her firstborn child.
Almost immediately, we moved into position at the front of the Church. Before the Priest proceeded, he looked at me and said, ‘There’s mischief in those eyes if ever I’ve seen it!’ I gave him a blushing smile and turned to the Crucifix. Although feeling guilty for consuming impurities and not sleeping, I looked at the Cross in amazement and thanks. This life was full of expression! Colourful party times and most of all love boomed in my heart… I loved being old enough to party!
I spent the day celebrating with Lindy, family and friends. Later at home, when natural fatigue slowly took over, my energies subsided into a nice mellow go to sleep hum! Oh, I appreciated slipping into bed after being out all night and day; oblivious to any disruptions the chemicals may be causing my body, ignorant of possible danger. I had read that ecstasy affects the Central Nervous System, which only sometimes came to my waking mind …
Dance parties were held almost every fortnight and it was very tempting to go to every one. These parties were mentally addictive—as was ecstasy. Designed without physically addictive ingredients, end users of ecstasy were still unable to verify the actual ingredients in each pill. Despite this, we felt safe indulging in the risk because a goodwill bond existed between gay people. During my years of partying, I never witnessed an ambulance or anyone require medical assistance. Even though thousands of people were partying together for many hours, I didn’t see or hear of anyone in trouble. Nor hear of or see arguments and/or bad behaviour anywhere around anyone!
I DID HAVE A ‘BAD’ TRIP at a dance party called Fun on April Fool’s Day after sharing a small portion of LSD. LSD is virtually non-toxic but its effects can be chaotic, and I felt extremely confused a half an hour after the gel dispersed on my tongue. I had taken only ‘a quarter’ at a few other parties without problem; experiencing enjoyable mental stimulation and heightened body co-ordination. But this time while dancing in the thinned out crowd, I hallucinated for the first time, my mind transformed people’s expressions and distorted their movements, causing me to lose my direction.
Once successfully off the dance floor, I had trouble explaining my problem to my sister Julie. Words just wouldn’t come, although I did manage to say some people looked ‘retarded’, owing to repetitive dance moves and peculiar expressions. The acid was causing me to contort the faces of nearly everyone! What’s more, the song seemed never-ending; time was slow-moving, warping. Sitting amongst these crazy thoughts, feeling anxiety for the first time in my life, a sweet gay guy named Mark came and comforted me, understanding me! He was a ‘seasoned’ tripper.
The night soon became day and the Hordern Pavilion’s side doors opened. Like nocturnal creatures emerging from a cave into the morning’s bleakness, everybody looked disorientated and quite poorly in the glare of the overcast day. I had had a heavy, bizarre experience on the acid and was relieved to get into our car. Tears rolled down my face as we drove away and I uttered the words, ‘I never want to go back there’. I didn’t return to ‘normal’ until after sundown, whereupon I danced with my shadow in the candlelight. There was no one there then. Julie and Peter had gone to bed and I was ready to party again...
THOSE WORDS were quickly dismissed. Only a week later, Alicia and I attended the Big Time dance party. Our home base in the Hordern consisted of a colourful array of people including my sister Julie and friends, the group was so stylish and glamorous; we felt blessed to be around them. Some called them the ‘beautiful people’ or even the ‘tinsel town people’. They earned this title due to their matching outfits and cool nuance… marking them as one of the coolest, sexiest group ever to walk the earth.
I always had touchstone people in the dance party scene and one in particular was a legendary figure, more down to earth and Aussie-like than the rest, named John. Lovely Johnny was a gorgeous, incredibly dynamic man with a wealth of fathomless energy. He could go on and on. We felt a strong brother/sister connection the moment we met and he reminded me of my brother. A very masculine gay guy, John’s happy face comforted me. Even though there was nothing to fear, everything felt extra wonderful when John was near. Dancing with him or having him in sight on the dance floor gave me extra ease because dance parties were for mainly gay men, who welcomed females, but every now and then, I wondered if I was overstepping the mark. Should I be here? This doubt would only come when dancing within the proximity of numerous, pounding, sweating, shirtless men, with no women in sight! Then, one look at John, and all would be well inside my dance party mind.
Sometimes we’d go out locally when a party wasn’t on. This was fun in a different way because our identities had changed. We’d go to the Central Coast’s nightclubs dressed in black, trendy dance party clothes—cropped tops and shorts, Doc Martin shoes, bandanas etc, when most other patrons were in shirts and women in high-heels and dresses. Upbeat, skin-showing clothing of the dance party era signalled a change in people’s fashion sense. Our dancing styles had evolved too—the many incredibly funky people dancing at dance parties had influenced the way we danced. Onlookers at these nightclubs, would sometimes stand watching with wide-eyed interest, having never seen people dance in such motion. Due to this and without the necessary Dance Party atmosphere, we would tone it down, but people were still amazed … which was half the fun!
* * *
After a time, my ex-boyfriend Ben and friends from the Coast started going to the Hordern dance parties. It was strange bumping into faces of friends from my teenage beach and house party days when life was so much slower. After these huge Sydney nights, Alicia and I began traveling home with them, rather than later that day. It was great hanging out with Ben again.
I was 18 now, and felt cool having so many new party friends, who were gorgeously good looking, fantastic dancers, and most were wonderfully gay. I loved dancing with them with all my heart and soul, not believing how lucky I was to receive so much love from men who loved me for me! The energy was indescribably glorious, dancing with dazzling men compelled to dance and convey stories with their movements. The dance exchange was a language of its own. I was captivated by many of these dance maverick storytellers... ... and my enchantment was expressed by my own story movements.
I daydreamed about dance parties at college, spoke about these fabulous weekends with my classmates, and became friends with a new girl named Mel, who seemed to know about the Sydney ‘scene’. After a while, she came to a dance party with us, and I soon wished I’d never invited her into my private life.
Mel liked Ben’s flatmate Mark and they soon began a relationship after meeting. After they’d been together for a couple of days, Mark and Mel enthusiastically suggested Ben and I get back together, so the four of us could hang out. Memories clouded my heart of my years with Ben, when I was on and off with him from 14 to 17 years (only a year earlier), and I strongly refuted the idea…
Days later, Mel came home with me from college to visit Mark, who lived a few blocks away. I went with her to visit Ben and Mark, thinking it wouldn’t be a problem, Ben and I had travelled home from parties a couple of times by then. But, when Mel decided to stay the night, Ben offered to walk me home…
By the time we got there, we were back together.
While we had walked, the familiarity of each other… the apparent depth of his love and my deeper attraction and unconscious need for it, made us kiss. Maybe he had grown since the dance party and ecstasy experience, I hoped. After all we’d been through trying to break up I couldn’t believe we kissed again! This reunion, without anticipation or pre-emption on my part, must have harmonised with destiny. It also marked the end of my friendship with Mel. She didn’t come back to Passmore’s to finish the course and she soon betrayed me with Alicia.
Mel accounts for the reason my friendship with Alicia ended for a time—our friendship had waned when I stopped going out in Sydney as much. I couldn’t go to every party because of college, and didn’t go to the Let them Eat Cake dance party because I had too much homework. The real problems arose when Mel, Mark, and Alicia moved into an apartment together in Sydney shortly after Mark and Mel hooked up. By then Mel had changed her mind about Ben and me, now thinking we shouldn’t be back together and asked me to visit their place without him. They were shitty I wasn’t going to the Let them Eat Cake dance party, choosing instead to stay on the Coast in order to study for a marketing examine with a fresh mind on Sunday.
They were upset whenever Julie, her boyfriend, Ben, and I, chose to go out locally rather than to yet another Sydney dance party. And, I quickly discovered how they felt. On the Sunday morning following the Let them Eat Cake party, Mel said horrible things about me and my family to a friend from college, who told me all about it on Monday morning. They gave me the title of ‘Miss Dance party’, which was a huge compliment, even though they didn’t want me to interpret it that way!
* * *
My very sad occurrence was the worst thing Mel spoke about that morning. I had fallen pregnant. Up until then, only Lindy and Alicia knew. And I fell due to running out of my pill, stupidly not refilling my script in time! Consequently, it happened at the end of May, and only one option was possible when I realised. This was devastating! The fact was so evident there was no need to visit a doctor. My breasts were growing larger, and urinating was becoming more frequent, especially first thing in the morning. I couldn’t tell beautiful Mum, Louise or Julie, or especially Dad, knowing how he’d feel, knowing how distressed they would all be.
I had work-experience at the Marketing and Promotions Department of the State Superannuation Board the week of the appointment at the clinic. Luckily for me, the Public Relations Officer was Julie’s friend, so I obtained a week’s work as the Publicity Assistant and stayed at Mum’s house during that week. Each morning I was sick in the toilet and it was a relief Mum didn’t notice anything unusual. I commuted to and from Sydney with this sickness and felt it at work, secretly vomiting there too. The thought of the coming Saturday morning appointment at the clinic also tainted the joy of this new working experience.
Ben accompanied me to Sydney for it, and it was the saddest trip I’ve ever taken, as if we were in a surreal play that wasn’t really happening. However, it was and I needed to go through it. Oh, how I wished it were only a play! Recovering in the rest room after the procedure, I noticed my hunger. Cheese and biscuits were on a plate beside me. Cheese, that would have made me sick earlier, I now eagerly ate.
Over the years, I somehow blocked the memory of that day, until I saw a television program regarding terminations. I re-lived it in the watching, and a statement by an anti-abortionist found its mark: ‘If you terminate your child, you’ll still be a mother, just one of an unborn child.’ It was true, my thoughts have often returned to the life so briefly inside of me, a life I have honoured even more in time... strange as that sounds. But back then, I was too young, immature, and unable to think about having a life connected ongoing to Ben. I didn’t even consider actually having the baby. We had had an immature, on and off relationship for far too long.
It was many years before telling any of my family—firstly Julie in 1995, and then Mum in 1996. Mum was shocked I didn’t go to her at the time, wishing I had told her and not gone through it alone, but I felt I deserved this, and reassured that she would have known if there had been any possibility of me having the baby.
I worried about telling Dad the most. Both Mum and Dad would have loved the baby and would have given me support at any cost, but Dad had strong Catholic ethics. He told me how he felt about abortions a year later, over lunch one day. The subject of abortions came up and Dad affirmed: ‘Under NO circumstances do I agree with abortions! Perhaps under only one condition—if the girl was raped’. I don’t remember what I said, but my body language declared all guilt—head down, stomach on the ground, and heart in the bin. I was glad Dad didn’t notice.
AS WELL AS putting my body through that sad pregnancy mishap, it also went through a lot at dance parties, not only because of what I took, but also because of the amount of dancing. Sometimes, Alicia and I would stand on the scales before leaving for a party, to see we were around the eight stone mark. Ten dancing hours later, we’d weigh in at seven and a half stone, from the water lost during dancing. This yo-yo affect wouldn’t be good for anybody, but we kept doing it anyway. It felt good being slim at dance parties since they glorified the body beautiful!
I was psychologically addicted to these parties. The thought of them was pure bliss and it was paradise being at one! Many people felt the same way! I wished life could be one big ecstasy, and imagined how wonderful the world would be if everyone tried one even for a few hours, hearts and minds would open to feelings of goodwill and to the simple beauty around and within us! It was my first step towards seeing the oneness of life, the simplicity of love, and knowing the joy from meeting so many fun-loving, beautiful, interesting people. It wasn’t about sex, or drugs! It was about seeking, giving and receiving love. Ecstasy was healing too, which I inwardly needed, holding all the sadness of my recent tragic experience inside of me!
* * *
With so many nights at dance parties sharing love, and the hours I lost sleeping, it was a great relief to gain a Credit on the Marketing and Business Diploma at College. I stayed awake all night before my major Marketing examine thanks to a small dose of no-doze, and went into to college to sit a three hour examine that was extended to five hours.
I was happy with a Credit. We marketing diploma students basically taught ourselves from our textbook over the year, because the Marketing teacher was often away overseas having major health treatment. It was a wonder any of us passed—marketing was boring enough. Trying to teach ourselves from a book had the capacity to turn us off the subject for life, as it did with me.
We certainly deserved to enjoy the Graduation Ball after such a tough year. Alicia came, along with Mum, Dad, Nanna, and my oldest sister Louise. It was wonderful Louise came to the Ball because she moved to Sydney when I’d just turned 14, upon marrying her prince charming who took on overseas holidays and gave her the life of luxury.
The college students dressed in lovely dresses and suits for our special occasion, thrilled to be celebrating our year together. After the ball, Alicia and I danced the night away at a nearby nightclub with a few other students, celebrating freedom from school all over again.
Happily, Alicia and I had made up after our fall-out when Mel said awful things about me. Not surprisingly things didn’t work out for her living in Sydney with Mel and Mark, and when she returned home across the park from me she came over to apologise for disclosing sad information about me and not standing up for me. I was thankful and happy to have my friend back. I’d missed her!
We went to the Barbarella dance party next to celebrate further. For the first time I could party without feeling guilty about my studies. Julie and our new friend Paul were among the entertainment dancers at this gathering celebrating the lustrous tale of Barbarella. They wore sparkling silver sequin shorts (and bra top for Julie) and danced in elevated cages.
I met the splendidly gorgeous and cool Paul and Daniel that evening. Paul and Daniel were going out together and I loved the way they danced. Especially Paul, wearing navy blue short overalls, with no shirt looking extremely cute with his dark hair, big hazel eyes, and a beautifully structured face. After Julie introduced us, I remained standing in front of him, elated to meet him, but he was shy back then and didn’t say anything to me. He didn’t need to. To the music, he moved towards me and lifted one of his arms into the air, which made me respond in the same way. As we danced, we clicked and connected into a dancing partnership. Captivated by his gentle, glorious, uplifting energy, I followed his beat, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship began to unfold!
To end a great Christmas Day with all the family together like all Christmases in my memory , I went on a big night out with Julie, Paul, and friends. On the way in the car, and at the house gathering beforehand, Paul and I had strange vibrations between us—exciting but also nervous energies. At quiet times, it seemed like I couldn’t say the right things, be funny, or create an easygoing air with him, and inwardly berated myself for not being amusing enough in the effortless way Julie and others were. Julie was extremely funny. Everyone was a clever, witty wordsmith! The entire gay world is alive with humour. I was fortunate the gay world was also alive with music and dancing, because in that world, I was home!
On this night, as with many times ahead, Paul and I would forget any uneasiness between us when the music began. We’d be off dancing, and I’d follow his lead in movement to the tune. He danced magnificently with refined moves and a unique rhythm that I loved to mirror. Our relationship was at its best whenever we were out, whether at dance parties, nightclubs, or recovery parties, we were in harmony when the atmosphere was non-verbal! He became like my boyfriend, albeit a pretend one. We’d be close during the entire outing, whether we were dancing or not, I loved being his special dancing party girl. I also loved being his girl, and secretly wished he wasn’t gay, although I knew the purity of our relationship was divine.
So many new and exhilarating things were happening in my life! I couldn’t wait to start working in the city!