Last weekend my family came over for lunch at my Nanna’s (where the kids and I are currently living). We ate quiche and salad, which was what was requested as the lunch offering and afterwards, my Mum, Dad, Aunty Linda and I sat outside at the glass outdoor setting, where we’ve been congregating for years and sank into the familiar conversations of family and life over a couple of glasses of wine and beer.
Before too long, triggered by a conversation about the pending holiday to England my Mum, the kids and I are embarking on in July, our talk turned to Coventry and old memories about people and places of their childhood. Places and people I’ve heard about all my life, as my family is notorious for nostalgia. My Dad loves nothing more than talking about ‘the good old days’ when him and John Shepherd were best mates and hung around Sewall Highway, playing with the other kids in the street and only ever heading back indoors at dinnertime. My Dad and John Shepherd are still best mates, 65 years on and even though they live in different countries, they still find time to phone each other and catch up on news via Facebook.
I love these conversations. I’m not one of those daughters or sons, that rolls their eyes and says ‘Geez, not this story again!’ I always listen more intently each time, making sure I mentally record all the details for future stories and I enjoy the way my family revel in the joy of recalling, and the laughter these trips down memory lane brings them.
I’m completely fascinated by my family history. And not the Ancestory.com type of history of who I was related to in a past life or that I have a poofteenth of African blood in me. No…I love the juicy details. I’m all about connections and coincidences and how one thing led to another. My family history is full of that shit!
My Aunty Linda (otherwise known as Diane in The Sunbeam Alpine, the novel I am yet to finish about how my Mum and Dad met) decided within the first glass of wine at this Sunday lunch, that she would stay the night with me at Nanna’s. She was on the phone to her husband Billy (who these days chose to stay home in Mandurah and not join us for family gatherings) asking him if it was okay to come home tomorrow instead. He is fond of a lager or twenty and probably had no objections to another night of freedom on the turps and not being rationed to two cans of beer. Let’s not dance around the subject; he’s an alcoholic, a true blue one at that. But he’s also an adult, so what he does to his body is his own business, and Aunty Linda needs a break from being his carer from time to time.
As an aside, they live in Australia for five or six months of the year, then travel back to Cleetor Moore, Cumbria in the UK for the other six or seven months. Sounds like the ideal lifestyle for most, and at first I think it was for her, but now that my Nanna, (her Mum) is in her winter years, and her grandchildren are teenagers, I think she’d rather just pack up her home in England and stay here forever. I think we’d all like that too.
I love my Aunty Linda, she’s my Mum’s younger sister, and we have been close since the day I was born. Our mantra is, ‘I should have been her daughter.’ Because we share so many traits. We’re both social butterflies, our friends take equal position in our loyalty as our family, we both like a cheap wine and we both like a ciggie. And neither of us know when to stop. She smokes like its still 1970 and I bum hers whenever we are together. I’m the only other smoking family member left, albeit it, I only smoke when I’m with other smokie people or I’m writing! It’s a thing people, get over it. As long as my kids never see me do it…I’m good with it!
Under normal circumstances, I’d have loved the fact that Aunty Linda wanted to spend a night with me, however on this occasion, I thought ‘Shit! It’s Sunday night, I have work tomorrow and I can’t afford to be drinking and smoking all night.’ My memory alerted me to the last time we did this…we got to bed at 3am, when we ran out of wine, we started on the vodka and the next morning I felt like I’d been down a coal mine, inhaling soot and had the hangover from hell.’ I couldn’t do that again, not on a school night at least!
But instead, I said ‘Yay, yes, stay over BUT at 10pm…I HAVE to go to bed.’ To which she replied ‘Ok, it’s a deal.’
So when Mum and Dad left later that afternoon, Oliver and Audrey got assigned to iPads and drawing projects and Aunty Linda and I poured the wine and smoked menthol cigarettes, and carried on the same way we have for years.
I told her about this new series of stories I was writing about the People and Places I’ve lived throughout my life and asked if she’d like to hear it? Of course, as one of my devoted fans, she said ‘Let me fill our wine glasses, then let me have it.’
So I read this series from beginning to latest part. We laughed, we cried and quite often, I’d joke through floods of tears ‘Man, this is so good, who wrote this shit, its bloody briilant?’ She laughed along, refilled our wines, put the kids to bed and said ‘Okay, keep going.’ I loved her for that. During the reading, she added memories I’d forgotten. Everyone wants a bit more of himself or herself in the story, so I promised to add those bits later.
On that note, I should say, part of the reason we are so close is that apart from our love of tipping and inhaling poison into our bodies, when my Mum was pregnant with me, my Aunty Linda was also pregnant with her first child. Now, while I don’t have any siblings myself, I imagine being pregnant at the same time as my sister would be all kinds of wonderful. Planning how your children would grow up and play together and be the best of friends. But Aunty Linda’s child was not meant to be, and she miscarried. It must have been a devastating blow. All those hopes and dreams washed away in a flood of blood and grave disappointment. It happens, more times that we know, but for those that experience that type of loss, sometimes it’s unrecoverable.
When I came into the world, I think she always thought of me, as the child she should have had. I think she still looks at me like that, all these years later, even though she now has her own gorgeous grown up children, my cousins, Andre and Vanessa, but they came a good five years after me. So our bond was fully established by then and old habits and true loves are hard to break.
One of those stories, that I refuse to say ‘Not that story again!’ is the one she tells about when I was a new born baby, she’d always visit Mum and say how’s Tabetha doing today. ‘Mum would say, ‘Ssshh, I’ve just got her to sleep.’ And Aunty Linda would say ‘I’ll just go and check on her then,’ She was fond of waking me and giving me a nudge as if to say ‘Cmon,,,lets play.’ And walk out with me in her arms saying ‘She just woke up when I was in there checking. I didn’t do anything.’ I gather my Mum would roll her eyes and give her the privilege of nursing me back to sleep. An unspoken understanding, a willingness to share me, if it helped sooth her own sister’s broken dreams. Mum was always good like that. It takes a village, and along with my Nanna and Pop, they were mine.
Anyway, I’m so far off track now. I left the last blog hanging with promises of telling you about the things I wasn’t proud of and the show Blitz that became a landmark in my performing career.
My Aunty Linda said, after reading Part Six of my installment ‘You’ve contradicted yourself by saying only the surface memories spill over the Mundaring Weir wall and that you can’t remember things with detail. You write with so much detail. It’s what makes me want to know more.’ But to me, these are only some of the details of a much bigger story, but I’ll carry on and fill in the gaps as I go.
Blitz was a big deal. A really big deal to a kid like me that grew up hearing war stories for my Pop who served in the British Light Infantry during WWII and it was only because of the war that he met my Nanna. I’ll get to that story later.
So YOG rehearsed for the show every Thursday night and all day Sundays. It was a social event and a job we wanted to excel in. While I dedicated my passion to the show, I was also falling deeper and deeper in love with Andy. My jealousy streak was at an all time high, as he continued to flirt with anyone who had reached puberty, showed him some attention or was willing to pash him in a game of spin the bottle.
Maybe if I’d have been a testosterone -fuelled, good looking lad like he was at 18, I’d have reveled in the adoration of the girls the same way, but as a 19 year old lovelorn girl, it was all a bit heartbreaking and led me to an inward desperation to be his one and only. I’d clearly have a word with myself, if I was me now looking back, but I didn’t have that luxury or wisdom back then, so did everything in my power to win him over.
Where I had the edge was, I was one of the only girls that had a car and I was part of his inner circle. One of the ‘Famous five’ best friends,, that took prescient over all others. So one night after rehearsal, I whispered to him ‘Let’s go do something together. Let’s go out for a drink. My shout!’
We got into NOB and we drove to Stratford Upon Avon. Just the two of us in Shakespeare territory, a 45 minute drive from home. We went to a pub in the middle of town and drank beer and cosied up like boyfriend and girlfriend in a booth. I pretended to myself he was mine. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the moment in a haze of lager and cigarettes. When the pub called last orders, we weren’t ready to go home, so we walked the path lit by streetlamps along the famous Avon River, holding hands like a modern day Romeo and Juliet, not considering our ending might turn out like theirs.
Outside the stage door of the Royal Shakespeare theatre we finally kissed. Full of passion and urgency and never wanting the night to end, we got lost in a flurry of tongues, caressing, and hard rubbing bodies. With every erogenous zone on high alert and only a few layers of clothing left until we made love right there on the pavement out side of the famous theatre, I said ‘Shall we take this back to my place.’ There were no objections.
In the car ride home, we carried on the lustful touching and kisses. While I drove, his hand rubbed it way up my leg and at every stop we’d kiss a little more. By the time we got back to my little flat on the third story, there was no turning back. We were naked, tangled between the sheets, no more conversation, lost in the oblivion of skin to skin, the euphoria that love making brings. I was lost in the bubble of true love. Of this secret, clandestine moment, that would be our secret. Nobody else ever need know. And while I had him in that moment, I believed I’d won him forever. Romeo and Juliet, the forbidden lovers that would secretly love each other for eternity.
I glowered in the bliss of that night, in some ways I still do. I enjoyed the secrecy of it. A moment in time, the sort you’d like to trap in a bottle and release every once in while to remind you how happy you felt right then and there.
We carried on the pretense among the other Famous Five, we never told the other sabout it. Weeks went by and nothing ever happened again, but I longed for another night like that one with Andy.
Maybe I was delusional, maybe I saw it as meaning way more to me than it ever did to him, but we’d made no commitment to each other, so I carried on like a sassy girl that was cool with this one night and nothing after.
I carried on my normal days working at the RSA and rehearsing with YOG for the next show. Shelley was out of my life happily living with her boyfriend Nick and cousin Nick long gone continuing his travels.
During those weeks the other Nick (of famous five and deaf mother fame) and Andy had concocted a plan to buy a karaoke business and move to Ibiza (an island in Spain) and make their millions running an entertainment business. Andy’s older sister Gayle, had hooked up with a dance DJ over there , who had filled the boys heads with ideas that he could get them contacts at hotels and help them build their business. Nick and Andy, saw a never ending summer with tanned Mediterranean girls flocking to their hotel room every night and to be honest, who could blame them for wanting that life. Me…I blamed them, because I didn’t want to lose Andy to a zillion more exotic girls than me but I pretended to be on board with their lavish entrepreneurial exploits and said ‘You should totally do it, ‘ With way more enthusiasm than I really felt.
So they sourced all the equipment they needed and Andy’s Mum and Dad financed it with the few savings nick had too. Not sure how much Andy actually contributed, but he was the brains and instigator of ‘Project Ibiza Karaoke’.
Andy’s Mum and Dad had taken a shine to me. Another thing I’d fooled myself that one day they’d be my inlaws, so I would go over and have coffee with Hazel (his mum) even when he wasn’t home. I know, I know…this has stalker crazy girl written all over it, but I honestly didn’t see it like that. I just wanted to be part of his world and they welcomed it. Andy’s Mum was the one who gifted me half her kitchen equipment when furnishing my bedsit.
His Dad Albert had a dry sense of humour and I could see Andy got his good looks from him. Even as an older man, he had the blue-eyes and distinguished allure of an older handsome Dad. I remember him telling me the story of when Andy’s oldest sister (the other one, not Gayle, she was the middle sister) got married. On the day of her wedding, one of the wedding gifts that was at their house got knocked over and broke. Must have been a vase or something, I can’t remember now. Alfred, hot-footed it to the local hardware store to buy some super-glue to put the vase back together before the ceremony. He did the job, then hot-footed upstairs to get into his Father of the Bride suit. Somewhere in his haste to glue the vase back together and get dressed for the wedding he wiped his eye with the finger he’s used to smooth the superglue onto the vase. As the story goes, he spent the wedding with one eyelid glued shut because the residue of glue had clamped his eyelashes together. Obviously they came apart eventually but we all thought it was a great story.
Weeks after the ‘Shakespeare Night Passion Interlude’, we went to a party at Jayne Joys house. I ate a pork pie and within a few hours proceeded to throw it up. I put it down to pork pies and cider not mixing well. Another week later it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a period for a while. I tried to recount the time I last had it and got out my diary and started counting the days since I could remember last having one. I wasn’t on the pill, so I didn’t have the luxury of knowing my cycle.
One day at work, a sickly feeling came over me and I threw up in the toilets at about 11am. Every day after that I did it daily. For a few more weeks I was totally in denial. I was only 19 and I kept putting it down to other things; hangover, food poisoning.
Eventually, I couldn’t deny it anymore…so I drove to a chemist miles away from where I thought anyone I knew might run into me, and bought a pregnancy test. I remember feeling the shame as I handed it across the counter, saying ‘It’s for a friend. She’s too embarrassed to come in and buy it herself.’ Who was I kidding..and they knew it!
I took it home to my bedsit and sat the packet on the counter for hours before I was brave enough to read the instructions and see what it said. I made myself a chicken kiev and sat on my second hand two-seater arse-worn couch and ate it, looking at the unopened box, as if it would miraculously do a dance across the bench and didn’t serve any purpose I’d bought it for.
I watched a black and white episode of Eastenders. then sat in silence as I looked at the box, like something foreign, an a-class drug I was too scared to try.
Eventually I opened the box, read the instructions and hovered over the kitchen sink, waiting for some pee to fill the enclosed container. The wee wouldn’t come. Stage fright!
I waited a bit longer, full of prayer that the result would be nothing and I’d laugh at myself for all the imaginary shadows and monsters under my bed, that never really existed in the adult world. Like this moment wouldn’t exist.
When my bladder finally decided to play its part in this silly game, I filled the specimen cup and stuck the indicator stick in. I paced the bedsit a few times before I went back to check the reading.
Even though I’d read the instruction three or four times already, when I saw two lines show up, I read it again, hoping I’d misinterpreted what two lines meant. PREGNANT!
OH DEAR LORD. IM PREGNANT. What do I do now?