Fed up with the long slog home each afternoon, I came up with the bright idea to try out a shortcut. I figured out, if we were to cut across the Miramar golf course, and climb up the hills behind, we could reach Sidlaw, up above heaps quicker.
The day a few of us decided to give it a go, the kids, who were too windy, headed off along Broadway as usual. While a little pioneering group of us bravely set out across the green grassy links to the foot of the hills. This was the easiest bit, because as we began to climb, it didn’t take long for us to figure out that it was harder going than it looked. The struggle to claw our way up the steep slopes was not helped, by a recent gorse fire turning the landscape, burnt black. All the bushes we were grabbing for handholds transferring their charcoal onto us.
Adding to my difficulty, I was wearing the new, long, white rubber, rain-cape, mum had got me for rainy days. Its design, definitely not suited for climbing up steep hills. Reaching nearly down to my feet, its slits for hands and big hood giving it a Klu-Klux-Klan look. Emerging onto Sidlaw, after having scaled the last hill, I looked down at my once white rain-cape, now, burnt-gorse-black and could already hear mum’s saying, ‘you look like you’ve been dragged through a gorse-bush backwards’.
With her five o’clock bus was due any minute, I rushed home to our wash-house tub. I was still frantically scrubbing away at that black stuff but it wouldn’t budge. I heard mum’s bus arrive at the stop above our lane and knew I was going to be in for it, good! When she appeared and saw what I was doing, she biffed me around the ears for being so stupid. I guess it was one of my dumber ideas.
I’m not sure how she did it, but somehow mum managed to get some money together to treat my sister and me to new winter clothes. Proudly heading off to school the next day all togged out in new corduroy trousers, woolly jersey, scarf and hat I felt very posh.
However minutes after making it through the school-door, I got a shock when I was called to the Headmaster’s office. Worried and unable to think why he wanted me, I soon found out. I got a telling off for wearing trousers to school. According to him, they were for boy’s attire only and if I ever wore them again, I would be sent home. Ashamed, I wanted to run home then and there. He also gave me a note to take home to mum telling her too. When mum read his note, it got her goat up and made her swear.
As soon as my sister was enrolled at school, Nana was freed up to return to work. She took a position at Mckenzies, a huge shop up Cuba Street. They sold just about everything in the whole wide world, all laid out on top of rows and rows of counters, for browsing.
She also moved into a room of her own in a boarding house up a really steep hill, Ellice street, off Marjery Banks street, at Courtenay Place. All the rooms were filled with lots of different people, that Nana didn’t know. Whenever mum worked on the weekends, we visited with Nana at her little boarding house room.
Visitors were not allowed to stay over in the rooms, so Nana’s voice sounded a bit serious when telling us to keep very quiet. She worried that if we upset the other residents and someone complained about us to the landlady, she would be sent packing. It seemed really odd going to your bathroom and seeing strangers in it.
Her room could only fit a single bed, a tiny table and one chair and some drawers. My sister and I had to perch up on top of her bed to sit down, but were not allowed on the special, green silky, eiderdown, kept folded up at the bed’s feet end. Nana was very proud of having a ‘real’, ducks’ feathers, eiderdown, and us kids liked pulling out any feathers that managed to wriggle partway through to admire all their colors or use them to tickle each other.
Sitting up like Jacky in the box seat, on top of the eiderdown, Nana had her, fox-fur. It was made out of a real fox’s skin, with shiny, black glass, beady eyes, that looked really real and like they were watching us. Nana reckoned, when she wore it wrapped around her neck and dangling off her shoulders on trips up town, it made her look very smart.
I remember thinking it hilarious and an irresistible challenge to try and use it to scare my sister, because she pretended it frightened her. Cunningly, to surprise her and call her bluff, I would sit stroking the fox’s fur, until I saw she wasn’t looking, before giving it a quick wave in her face. She always, let out a big wail and complained to Nana.