Sunday, October 23, 2011

Most memorable moments

It has always bothered me that ordinary people would write an autobiography and even some famous or infamous people. We could often do without reading their biography and it becomes an exercise in self congratulations or self justification for having taken a certain path in life or over come something that really was not that wonderful or mind blowing anyway.
I really do not think that I have any new insights to impart, except for the fact that what I share may or may not help someone who has faced similar challenges because they will see the mistakes and pitfalls I have come across and made errors of judgement and avoid them. Other people are far more interesting and of great worth than I am. Hopefully I will write something more worth while one day.

My earliest memories are of receiving radiation treatment for a birth mark on my left eye lid. I can remember the iron cot and the discomfort of the bandage that I felt I had to take off. It annoyed me and I struggled to get it off as much the nurse struggled to put it back on. The cot was cast iron and painted white. My mother was no where around and I was hungry but I did not want to eat. I wanted my mother who was absent. Later I know that she was looking after my brother who had had an infection in his nose that destroyed the cartilage in his nose. My mother would describe how the doctor took a scalpel and pressed against his poor little nose and a sausage of pus and blood burst out from under the blade. She would describe the smell and how terrible it was for her, but not a word of sympathy for the boy. How she never realised what was going on, I do not know. When she took him to the doctor he had been screaming for some days and his nose and face were swollen. The infection ran right through his sinuses and when he healed he had a stub of a nose that had no cartilage and he needed plastic surgery later in life to repair the damage. He was only around six to seven months old.
Later when she had our younger brother, we were left at the property with an American woman Elisabeth who took to me with a broom and beat and beat me with it. Then she threatened to kill me if I told my parents what had happened. Oh. for the day when you could have CCTV. I was four years old and my brother was just two and a half. She was a big brute of a chunky well fed amazon.
It raised some quite interesting complexes in me later and I am not sure what my brother thought of the whole affair but it was he who told my parents. Surprisingly you would have expected them to make her pack her suitcase and walk the 32 kilometers into Wyandra, given the fact that my ribs, backside and legs were black and blue with bruises. I would have if some one had done that to my son or any child for that matter.
There was only two trains a week and a mail truck that came from that train twice a week to bring groceries and mail from Wyandra. We could go six months with only several trips to Wyandra and one trip to Charleville which was 100 miles away and three hours on the dirt track one way. The name of the property we lived on was Elverston and it had been in the family since the late 19th Century. When I say it had been in the family, it had belonged to my father's mother's family - the Kirbys. Wyandra is a rail stop between Cunnamulla and Charleville in Queensland. When I was a child it consisted of a railway siding, three pubs I think and two general stores and around twenty houses of railway fettlers or people who worked on the railway lines between the two country towns. There was also an orchard and a police station and a fuel depot. The police station had one policeman and his family. There was also the state school which only went to primary school and there was a church building which I only ever saw from the outside once and that was when my youngest brother had to be baptised because the bush brother made a visit to the property and asked about whether we had been. I think Christopher had been done on a trip to Brisbane when my grandmother broke her hip and I was done at an early age and shocked everyone by taking the priest's keys and throwing them into the font of holy water. Apparently it was quite a struggle to get me to hold still and they did not do a very good job of it. Water went every where and my father later joked that everything was 'holy' once they finished with me as water was splashed everywhere and the priest was glad to see the back of me and my parents. Considering I later converted to Orthodox Judaism and still am an observant Jewess it was probably a harbinger of things to come.  I never had a great affection for Christianity and later when sent to a High Anglican Church St Margaret's boarding school in Albion Brisbane that antipathy deepened noticeably.  My parents' friends the Smiths from Elmina Station told them that it was an excellent school and turned out young ladies of the finest degree. Elsa Smith was something of a snob. She had two daughters who both graduated with flying colours from this school and both were prefects. My father's family had had only boys and therefore they did not have much experience in choosing a school for a girl. My mother being Austrian had not the slightest clue what was required in the education of a grazier's daughter and my grandmother did try to help but my mother and her did not really see eye to eye on many things. Neither my mother or grandmother was very attached to any religion. My father and his brothers had to be baptised before they were married because Gran had forgotten about it. There were more important things in the bush to deal with and it may also have been deliberate.
Apart from a German bible of my mother's, there was not one copy of a bible, christian or otherwise on the well laden bookshelves at my parent's house or my Grandmother's house.  When I went to St Margaret's High Church of England Girl's Grammar, having a St James version of the Old and New Testament was part of the school equipment and texts. Although I made heavy use of it because when one had detentions, it was considered good for the soul to write out sections of the bible. I had a lot of detention in those two years and if I had stayed on there, I would not have been eligible for a weekend until the beginning of year 10. I left at the end of year 8.
The good thing was that they let you choose between the new and old testament and I always chose the old testament and had a particular liking for psalm 23. I still do and it used to annoy the nuns no end. When one of them asked me why I should not sometimes delve into the New Testament, I replied it was confusing and disjointed. She told me that was because I was too young to understand it. So I said good, I am obviously not ready for the New and I will stick with the old, tried and true. The stories in the Tanach spoke volumes more and I remember reading proverbs or Perkai Avot and enjoying them immensely.
Anyway I am jumping. I want to explore memories of my childhood, the relationship between my mother and myself, my father and grandmother and our governesses. We did tend to get rid of them rather quickly which was why my mother found a retired school teacher Mr Vaughan who was very handy with the cane to teach and civilise us the year before I went to boarding school. I turned eleven that year 1965 and my brother Christopher nine. Christopher was such a 'problem' for my mother that they sent him to Churchie, the Church of England Grammar School for boys in Brisbane at ten years of age rather than at eleven when he was supposed to go. Stephen my mother's favourite child did not go away until year 8 aged 12 and a half - later than either of us.

No comments: