Wednesday, 15 December 2010

More Hello's (hellos, helloes, hello-s???)

Hello to Medford, Massachusetts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and... Sydney.  I'm hoping the Medford, Massachusetts, and West Roxbury, Massachusetts people know each other and are excitedly ringing each other up going "she's posted again, quick quick", but somehow I doubt it, even if they are only 30 minutes & 15 miles apart.  

Yes, Gentle Readers, I looked at Google Maps to find out where they are.  Geography has never been my strong point, I must confess.  When we first came out to Australia 357 years ago, we changed from the migrant hostel school to a 'real' school just in time for the mid-year exams they have here in June - exams, I hear you say, in the middle of Summer break?  Well, Northern Hemisphere Gentle Readers, in Australia, June is right at the beginning of Winter and holidays are not generally taken until later in the year, when we can all go skiing (when it gets down to, oooh, 15C!).  Luxury.

However, back to my story - I managed to get the map of Australia upside down, because I was eight and a half years old and had no idea what shape Australia was, and got all the State capitals wrong.  I don't think I even knew that Australia had States, because that's not a concept England has, and I didn't really know anything about the US, in those days, except that it's where Pete Seeger came from.  Bit like these people, really... but at least I had a reasonable excuse!

Anyway, it scarred me, geographically speaking, for life, and to this day, the only two geographical things I know is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that the two landlocked countries in South America are Bolivia and Paraguay, and I used that in a crossword just last week.

The migrant hostel school, I hear you say?  Yes, Gentle Readers, we came out here as Assisted Passage Migrants.  We were Ten Pound Poms.  We flew with Qantas, and it was the first time on a plane of any kind for all of us except Dad, who'd been to various exotic locations with the RAF, in the 1960's.  The plane broke down in Iran, which wasn't as terrifying as it sounds, although going through immigration & being confronted by a man with a sub-machine gun was pretty scary - the airline put us up in a nice hotel, they showed us round the city and fed us, but it meant we were a day late, and the man who was supposed to meet us at the airport to drive us to the Hostel had long gone.  

My mother still talks about the exchange rate rip-off and the taxi rip-off - pounds sterling were worth about $3.00 but for some reason the airport currency exchange gave them almost parity.  Imagine that, an airport currency exchange ripping you off!  Anyway, they had to get a taxi from Sydney Airport to the migrant hostel, 77kms, or about 50 miles, or an hour & 15 minutes.  Apparently the taxi driver charged them $200, and they had no idea this was a huge rip-off.  The fare would only be about $220 today!

Anyway, here's what I looked like in 1970 - this was taken by Dad  in our one bedroomed flat, which we had moved to after escaping the clutches of the hostel (trust me, one bedroom was better than the nightmare of the hostel!  One day I will write a post - why I am slightly weird, and how Unanderra Migrant Hostel is all to blame):

Look at the hem on that dress.  So thrifty, and I'm still wearing cardigans.  I think my mother knitted that for me, it was Aran, with leather buttons.  Just the thing for the Australian Winter, a sleeveless cotton dress and an Aran cardigan.  You can tell we had no idea what was coming...

Here's a slightly later one when we'd bought more suitable clothing... kind of.  This was a pants suit made from a nasty kind of scratchy polyester.  It had patch pockets on the pants made out of the same stuff as the top.  I loved those shoes, though.  They were mustard-y brown, with three straps across the top, a square toe and a little heel.  Perfect for a ten year old.

I think this is where my love of natural fibres came from, an Australian summer spent in scratchy polyester!  Ow!