|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: October 28, 2004
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
You were telling the story of how you came back from the lavatory and found someone in your bed ... what did you do?
I thought, what's this person doing in my bed, and I went through all the possibilities that maybe the school was very poor and it couldn't afford a bed for each child, and then I thought maybe this is a child who arrived late at night and they saw my bed was empty and they tucked her in there. And then I thought maybe this is what happens in boarding schools ... I've never been to one before, but why didn't it happen before? And I decided I would get back into bed and I'll go to sleep, I'll try and go to sleep. But then the body in my bed starts stirring and kicking me and I suddenly become outraged, and I think, this is my bed you know, so I give an almighty kick and the hapless child lands on the floor with a great scream and all the lights go on, and all the nuns come running in and there's a huge kerfuffle and of course I get into ... actually a huge ticking off because I'd, you know, I'd got up and been to the lavatory and then I'd come back and then I'd kicked this poor child out of bed and she'd been sleepwalking ... which is what had happened.
So it wasn't a very auspicious start to the rest of my time there, which got worse and worse really. And I think there were a couple ... a few reasons for it. One was, again, I was about two years younger than everyone in my class and instead of ... instead of keeping me with my cohort, as I said earlier, I went to class with the older girls, but I slept with the babies. So I didn't really belong to either group ... and furthermore I remember being in the playground and the girls in my class ... I remember one of them was on the monkey bars and she clearly was just beginning to menstruate and I saw blood or stain on her knickers and I had no idea what this was, and I remember screaming out, ‘She's got blood on her knickers, she's got blood on her knickers!’, and again getting into trouble for this because this was, you know, something you weren't supposed to talk about. And the older girls knew all about it, but I didn't.
I was very untidy ... and I had my hair in bunches that were always coming undone. I was no good at sport, once again. I was always being picked for various sports because they had seen my long legs and they think I'd be good. I remember trying to climb up a rope and falling down, and everyone sniggering. Ah ... I had to keep all my things in a wastepaper basket because my desk was considered to be so messy, and in the end I used a kind of rat cunning to get myself out of as much school as possible, which was a fairly horrendous thing to have done. I used to ram myself into the cupboard in the dormitory and bruise my arm once because I knew that if I said I had broken it ... I was pretty devious ... I could get sent down to the sanatorium in the ... in the ... in the plains, because we were up in the highlands, and I would have two or three days down there. And that worked. I got sort of a week off school by doing that. It was nothing. I hadn't broken my arm. Um ... and then the other thing that I did was to scratch all my mosquito bites, and they got very worried and they thought that it was probably chickenpox or smallpox, they weren't sure, so again I was put into isolation for a while.
So, I mean, my level of unhappiness and probably rebellion at that stage, which was ... I was getting a bit stroppy. I was beginning to look after myself but in these fairly painful ways. Um ... I succeeded ... again, I succeeded in ... I remember I came top and it was this injunction of Nanny that I had to be ... I was fed up with being good by then, but I still had to be clever. And so that kind of salvaged a bit of my pride, but I certainly was very unhappy there. And then my parents took me away at the end of the year because they decided they would go down to Perth in Western Australia, and they would ... they had to get my brother into school. He couldn't go on staying out of school. And they would leave my brother and I at boarding school in Perth. They would have their leave there, and then they would go back to Malaya. And this is what happened.
Those stratagems that you used to get out of class, the sort of running in to hurt your arm, and the picking of your mosquito bites, and so on, you're interpreting as being a sort of clever way to get out of school. But it sounds remarkably like self-harm?
Well, it could well be ... except that it did achieve what I wanted, so it wasn't ... it wasn't just self-harm for the sake of getting attention to myself. It was self-harm that didn't actually harm me all that much, except the bruising was a bit bad. But it did achieve respite for me, which was to be able to stay in the dorm and to read. I read a huge amount always as a child, and ... so it didn't feel like total masochism, if you see what I mean. But yes, in one way I suppose it was. I mean, it wasn't something I would advocate any of my children or my grandchildren doing.
Now, you all set off to Perth, and how was that as an adventure?
That gradually got better and better, and I think coming to Australia was an enormous influence on me ... on my whole sense of robustness; on the freedom it gave me; on my ability to begin to find myself ... but only just begin. I don't know if any child ever finds themselves, or any adult come to that ... [laughs] ... But ... again we were sent to school, to boarding school, because my parents stayed there for the month of January, and I was sent to St Hilda's Ladies’ College, which still exists, and my brother went to Perth Grammar School, and we were deposited there ... and there I also had fairly dodgy times in the beginning ... for much the same sort of reasons, not really fitting in properly. My mother also at this stage had cut my hair differently. I remember I had a very straight fringe, and very long straight hair. I've still got photographs of myself looking like that.
And it was very different to all the other children who had sort of ... windswept hair was the fashion. And my clothes were a little bit different, although we wore uniform. My accent was different. I didn't have a lot of friends. I think I'd lost a year by then. I was only a year ahead by then. But I was still hanging on desperately to the fact that I could come top or near the top ... that I could do very well academically, as my sort of cache for some kind of standing in the form, which it succeeded in giving me that ... and I was getting a bit more comfortable with other kids around me. I was beginning to enjoy myself much more.
And then of course came Pearl Harbor, and my father had not allowed us to go back to Malaya for the Christmas holidays, as all the other children were doing, and there were a number of children whose parents came from Malaya at both those schools. Because he had listened a lot to the people in the ... the Kampongs and the Japanese laundry woman, the Japanese people around him in the kampongs and the ... excuse me ... he had listened a lot to the people around him in the villages who'd ... who were talking about ... the war and the Japanese coming, and he was ... I mean, he wasn't certain when he sent for us, but at that stage he was obviously realising that things were becoming ... fairly problematic, and he decided that we shouldn't come home for Christmas and he wrote to the headmistress of the school and the headmaster of my brother's school and indeed we didn't go. And I remember we were devastated and quite angry.
And we were sent to a boarding house where my parents had stayed with us, run by a wonderful Yorkshire woman called Mrs Cusworth who my parents had become friendly with, and she had offered to keep a friendly eye on us while we were at school. And they'd managed to get hold of her and she agreed that she would have us. And so we went there ... and we spent Christmas there with Mrs Cusworth who used to tell us stories about people dropping dead from botulism if they ate bottled fruit that hadn't been bottled properly ... and I don't think we were ... we didn't take anything particularly seriously again then. Then came Pearl Harbor, then came the war, and my parents were in Malaya and we were in Perth. And I can't remember the exact order but my mother escaped first. My mother and my father had been up country in Kuala Pilah, the Japanese invaded, my father stayed behind, my mother drove down with another woman friend to Singapore with the dog and a couple of suitcases, and then my father eventually joined her in Singapore.
And she actually got out on the last plane that left Singapore, and she went to Darwin first and she was stranded in Darwin for two or three weeks, where she worked as a cook in one of the pubs there because she had no money, and she knew we'd want money. And again it's an example of her resourcefulness, you know, that she decided she had to save some money, get some money and quickly. And then she got down to Perth and the Red Cross linked her up, or she went straight to Mrs Cusworth, I've forgotten now, but she found us ... and then came that long process of waiting and of our parents, our mothers — she joined up with two other families and these three women used to go down to the docks day after day after day to see if their men had escaped, because when she left, already Singapore was going up in flames and, you know, it was obvious Singapore was going to fall although this was the fortress that could never be taken. And my father afterwards used to tell stories about ... everybody around him used to say, 'those funny little men in their bare feet and their slopy eyes. They're never going to defeat us.'
So there was a total naivety and arrogance, really, and an inability to recognise that these funny little men were actually a formidable fighting force, that were fighting in a way that used the jungle and ... that didn't follow conventional modes of warfare as we knew it then, and indeed did sweep through the Peninsula and Malaya fell ... and I remember, came the day when the Red Cross informed everybody down at the docks that it was unlikely that anyone else, any other men, people, would be escaping. And at that stage the Red Cross offered to send us up to the country outside Perth to Armadale where an ear, nose and throat specialist, called Doctor Jewett, had offered his country property as his gesture to the war effort, and he had said that any refugees from Malaya, particularly women and children, could go and live there if they wished. And so the Red Cross sent these three women and ... six children I think it was ... the number changed sometimes because some of the children were at school, and then they came back to Armadale. And he sent us there ... they sent us there, and the injunction was we were to live off the land, which was an extraordinary concept because a, the soil was very poor, b, there had been a drought, and c, our mothers had been used to all the comforts of a colonial life and could scarcely boil an egg. And what's more, I remember the first time they did the washing they starched the sheets. So they kind of stood up like giant sheets of fibro. And we had a kettle, a copper ... what do you call it, for the washing ...
An old-fashioned copper?
We had an old-fashioned copper, and ... life was quite difficult ... but once more I have this memory of my mother, and I know the other women were also resourceful, but of my mother at some stage when we were all whinging, we were sitting around the table in the kitchen, and there was a heat wave. There were no flywires, flypaper hanging over our nose, and we were whinging really because we were frightened, and we were ... probably picked up the fear and the anxiety also of our mothers. Everybody was whinging. And my mother looked at a hoe that was leaning against the back door and there was a strawberry patch. We were supposed to be growing these strawberries and the idea was we would make strawberry jam, which we would sell by the side of the road for God's sake, in order to live, to survive. And my mother picked this up and said ... summonsed us and said, ‘You know, if you're in shit there's no point in lying down in it as well. Come on.’ And she got us all outside.
What had happened to your father?
My father, we had no news of, and none of the women had. We assumed he had been taken prisoner and then one day we were out hoeing the wretched strawberry patch and my brother was further down the laneway, the road. And we suddenly heard a scream from my brother, a shout, and we all came rushing out thinking he'd been gored by the one ancient bull that lived on the property together with us, and we saw this car coming up the drive with an elbow sticking out. And these women I remember rushed out and my mother said, ‘My God, it's Douglas.’ And we all ran to the car and my father got out, and he'd escaped. So it was an extraordinary moment that's frozen in my mind.
How had he escaped?
Well he had been ... in the last days of Singapore, he'd joined the Police Rescue Squad, so he was helping pull people out of burning buildings and he had apparently rescued a young naval ... rating ... a young sailor, and about half an hour later, after he had pulled this guy out and he was okay, he ... bumped into him and ... the young man said, ‘Hey Gov, do you want to try and escape?’ And apparently they had found an old launch, a launch the navy was supposed to have scuttled, and they hadn't done a very good job of it, and about 13 or 14 of them had decided they would try and get this boat to go, and they would get across to the Dutch East Indies, somehow or other, and from there they would make their way down through the islands and through the peninsula and try and get out that way. And my father, who always procrastinated about everything, he never made up his mind ... it took him a long time ... for once in his life, said yes.
And ... so he was part of that little group of people, men in this leaky little boat, which apparently for about two days and two nights was in the harbour, and they saw the flag go up. Now whether this is apocryphal I don't know, because we were never quite sure whether what my father was saying was the truth, because the story used to shift, but they did get out and Singapore Harbour was being strafed and boats were being blown up in front of people's eyes, and indeed the husband of one of the women actually died trying to escape. He was ... he was blown up. The ship was blown up. But my father's little boat made it, and they got across to ... the Dutch East Indies, they got across there. And they made their way overland. They hitched rides with Dutch army convoys that were also trying to escape. They walked and they pinched a couple of bicycles. So they got themselves right down to the south and there he got away on one of the very last cargo ships — because the whole of the straits was mined and these cargo boats were being blown up, again in front of people's eyes.
So it was an extraordinary, lucky escape and he arrived with malaria, which he had always had for a long time, and very thin and very exhausted. And the Red Cross agreed ... had said, yes, he could come and see us but he had to go back and go into hospital, and that's what happened. He stayed the night, one night, and went back into hospital. And nine months later my mother, aged about 42 or 43, had her third child. So he must have been still quite virile even after the escape. So it was a very momentous period, and that I do remember very strongly, and I remember the whole ... the emotion of what was happening and the ... the grief and the bewilderment and the fear was quite strong then in me as a child. So I'd ... it was no longer a fantasy, war.
How long was he in hospital before he rejoined you?
Well, I don't remember, Robin, I ... he was ... probably not very long. It might have been a couple of weeks, and then he didn't stay around very long because he joined the Australian army in order to teach Malay to Australian troops for the ‘Great Invasion’ that never happened. And this was a secret mission. So we never really knew. We knew he'd joined the army but we didn't quite know where he was sent. My mother may have known. He was sent up north. So again, I didn't have much knowledge of him as a person. He appeared. There was this extraordinary reunion ... and then he came back in army uniform, I think. And then he went off again. And at this stage, these three mothers decided that they would move to Perth because there was no schooling, really, up there in the country in Armadale, and ... you know, they felt they needed to back at ... to be in Perth. And so we moved to Perth.
Before we go to Perth, in Armadale ... and could you flesh out a little bit the nature of the life up there on that farm? How, you know, how they managed? You said they managed because your mother was able to get herself up and out of the shit and get out there with a hoe. But could you give us a picture of what life was like for those three women and for the children there? And I'm also wanting you to go over it a bit because the dog was barking.
Did we get ... did the dog come over my father escaping? Yes.
No, the dog came through the hoe.
Through the hoe?
So, I think what I'd like to do is to ask you a question about that because in any case we'd like a fuller picture of what it was like for the kids.
So when you went to Armadale, how was life there on that farm for all of you?
It was very strange. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced. The fields were not lush. The jungle was not green. We were in this old weatherboard farm house. It was in the middle of a drought. The paddocks were all brown. There were a few cows. There was a guy called Rose who was an alcoholic, only we didn't know that, who was supposed to look after the cattle, and he used to play knucklebones and he would play spoons, I remember. And we used to be fascinated by that. But our parents, our mothers, were less than satisfied ... excuse me I'm going to have to cough. Do you want me to go back to the beginning?
Just back a little way.
Um ... we had a man called Rose, who was supposed to be the farmhand that Doctor Jewett had left there for us to look after the cattle. We used to be fascinated by him as kids because he would play knucklebones and spoons and we thought this was quite wonderful, and he'd tell us stories about the bush. And he taught us how to, you know, lay a fire and boil a billy, and put a eucalypt twig in it and all that kind of stuff. All that folklore. But he also drank a lot, and so he would disappear quite frequently, and he'd be found either in the hayloft or at the foot of the hayloft with rows of tinnies around ... surrounded by tinnies or bottles or whatever they were then. And our mothers were always a bit frightened of, a bit wary of Rose, who used to kind of have a bit of pinchy feely on the side. And I remember my mother saying, ‘Don't you dare touch me like that again!’ And there was also the sorrow of ... and the fear of not knowing what had happened to our fathers ... we used to be worried about money. We had some sort of ... not even a pension, but the Red Cross used to give us an allowance. I remember we had to be dressed by the Red Cross because we didn't have ... we must have had clothes, but we had clothes given to us for the winter I think it was. Sorry, I'm making a mess of this one.
No you're not. Go on.
Where was the money? I mean, did all the money that had been in Malaya get cut off? What money did you have?
We had very little money. We had the money that my mother had shoved in her purse, and the other women ...
What was it like in Armadale? Sorry, I'll ask it again ... What was it like in Armadale?
It was quite strange ... it was visually very different. We had been used to the green fields of England and then the exotic jungle and the smells of the jungle, and suddenly we were in this very bare and quite barren country. There had been a drought. It wasn't very heavily treed. A lot of the trees had been burnt in fires. The ... the house was an old weatherboard house that stood on top of quite a small hill, I remember. And it was very hot in a way that perhaps Malaya hadn't been because we had fans and things, you know. Whereas there we were in this house with no flyscreens and dangly flypapers, and it was quite crude. It was quite challenging. As kids though I think we quite enjoyed it, probably more than our mothers did. We slept on the verandah. Our mothers ... the three mothers slept indoors. Kids ... we all had rows of beds on the sleepout.
There was a drunken old rouseabout called Rose, Mr Rose, who was supposed to look after the few cattle that were still left on the property. And he used to try and pinch our mothers’ bums and generally used to get fairly sozzled early on in the day. But he ... for us as kids he taught us knucklebones and he taught us how to play the spoons, and he taught us how to light a fire and boil the billy, and all those sorts of bush crafts that to us were, you know, exciting. And he told us bush fables and he told us about the blacks and the boongs, and generally instilled the kind of attitude of the period. I remember we were told that all Aborigines went walkabout and you couldn't trust them with anything. All that stuff started to seep into our consciousness.
We didn't go to school. The school was about ... I don't know, quite a way away, about six k's away. Maybe more, maybe more than that. And there was a racing horse on the property and a sulky and the idea was, our mothers told us, because they'd been told by Doctor Jewett, that we could go to school in the horse and sulky, but we of course had to harness it up, and get into the sulky, and the horse always bolted with us. So after about the third attempt, when we'd land up in the ditch, we gave up going to school and we convinced our mothers that we were going to teach ourselves, and we drew up these wonderful timetables that were full of things like English literature and biology and art. And we were, I suppose about 12, 11, something like that. A couple of the kids were older, and that meant English literature meant reading How Green Was My Valley, with detailed accounts of childbirth, or anything else that we could find in the house that had anything to do with sex in it. So we'd read these books.
And biology meant kind of really exploring what this actually meant, although we never got any further than masturbation, but certainly we had a rare old time up in the top of the hayloft. And art meant ... I think we drew each other. Not that we might have gone down ... but we did no work at all. And I think our mothers were so desperate, and they were very pinched for money because the Red Cross gave them emergency grants, and at that stage any other kind of subsistence through the government hadn't been worked out at all. So we were very short of money ... and we were also supposed to be living off the land which was an incongruous idea because our mothers didn't know how to boil an egg even, you know. They certainly didn't know how to farm land. And anyway there wasn't anything really to farm. There was a strawberry patch and Doctor Jewett had suggested that we might harvest the strawberries and make strawberry jam, which we could sell by the side of the road. Or mushrooms. The fields, the paddocks, were full of mushrooms. And we did try picking the mushrooms but by the time we got them down to the village in the sulky they were all shattered because we had turned over once.
And so it obviously wasn't very ... nothing was very practical in terms of ongoing existence. My mother, I remember one day when we were sitting around the kitchen table and whinging in this hot, hot morning, and ... being miserable and unhappy. And my mother glanced up and looked at the hoe, one of the hoes we were supposed to work on this miserable strawberry patch ... little shrivelled up strawberries, and she suddenly rose to her feet and she looked like ... she looked quite formidable. She had a scarlet red shirt on and she grabbed the hoe and she said, ‘Come on, if you're in shit there's no point lying down in it as well.’ And I always remember that. We followed her meekly outside. And it's a memory that's stayed in my mind very strongly because all those years later, when I wrote about resilience, I kept coming back to this memory, this sense that if you are in a mess only you can get yourself out of it. That's not quite true but it certainly was a strong message that she gave us. And I think she was quite important in my life in that sense and in many other senses as well.
We didn't stay all that long in Armadale ... Doctor Jewett, the doctor, used to come up and inspect the house and wipe his finger on top of the mantlepiece to see if it was full of dust, and give our mothers lessons on how to make tea. And it was the beginning of learning that, to a certain extent, the tables had turned in ... in the sense of being a colonial. So suddenly we were no longer the colonial strutting the stage and looking down on the Or-stralians. And I don't mean our parents did that, but it was part of that prevailing ethos. Suddenly we were the refugees, and there was a feeling that we were going to be taught a lesson. And that began when we were in Armadale, and it continued through when we moved to Perth, because it was obviously important that we went to school. Someone had realised that we hadn't been doing anything in the hayloft except enjoying ourselves.
How many kids were there?
Um ... my mother was pregnant and then there were two, five, six kids.
Was this your first experience of a gang, of a group of friends?
Yeah. And it was profoundly important because although we didn't coalesce at first, we did quite quickly. It was a sense of survival, and an adventure, so we became a gang that had its upheavals, but nevertheless we did kind of band together and sustained that when we moved all together to Perth, the three families.
Did they continue to live together?
Yes. We ... again ... we ... the Red Cross helped to find a house and we ... we had a big old rambling ... it only had two bedrooms, but it was a big old rambling house in the sense of big wide verandahs in Nedlands, which was then quite a deprived area, although now of course it's the very reverse. And we moved in there and ... again, the mothers lived indoors. I can't remember how they ... I think they shared a room. And the kids all slept on the sleepout. And my father when he came home, I think my mother had one of the bedrooms, the one with the double bed, because she was the one who had a husband still. In the meantime I think one of the mothers, Doreen [sp?], who had a very severe tropical illness or an illness called sprue, and was very sick, she had heard that her husband was in Changi, had been imprisoned — she thought. Nothing was confirmed at that stage, and the other mother who was ... and my godmother ... had learned that her husband had been killed trying to escape. He had been shot ... so again, it was quite a sombre little band of people who gathered in this house to begin a life, which went on for about five years, we were there.
Three families living together. Did the women get along?
I .., yes. I think my mother was bossy. I think ... [laughs] ... they used to complain about that. And I ... but generally, yes. They used to have Mothers’ Hour, they called it. It was at 6 o'clock when they would sit down and listen to the news or Blue Hills or something, and they'd have their glass of sherry. A very small glass of sherry because it was all they could afford. And the children weren't allowed anywhere near them while they had this sort of respite. I ... we ... we continued to run a bit wild at that stage too because, again, our mothers were not all that aware of what was going on. They were still trying to deal with ... one of them was dealing with a very serious illness, and the fact her husband was in [Changi] camp. The other was dealing with the fact that she was a widow, and my mother was pregnant and feeling very sick and didn't want to be pregnant. And ... you know, they were ... it was quite a sad and troubled household. Somehow or other I think as kids, probably, was how we sailed through it ... our delinquency was quite mild if I look back on it, when in those days it seemed absolutely wicked.
You were a delinquent?
Well, that's the name I like to give it. What we were doing was ... we needed money. This was the only time I've ever shown any kind of entrepreneurial ability in my life. But we needed money, we thought, because there was always this talk about money, and whereas everyone else at school — we were going to the local state school — but it seemed to us that everybody else had begun to have refrigerators and, you know, hot water and so on. We still had the dunny at the back of the yard, and we had a chip heater that never worked, and we had an ice box that leaked, and we had hand-me-downs, and we were still sort of struggling. And I think there were rations but that affected everyone. But when we went to school dances or parties, my mother used to make us our first dance dress. I remember she made it from old curtain material, and our dance shoes, she had got felt and cut them out in the shape of the soles of our feet and got braid, coloured braid, and made roman sandals which came unravelled as soon as we started to dance.
So it was that kind of sense of trying to ... trying to make do and trying to fit in which continued most of the time we were in Perth. Although it got better .. we went to school, and we went up to the primary school, and we went as a gang, and the headmaster I remember was pretty nasty. He said, ‘I suppose you think you kids are clever.’ You know, he was quite rude. It was quite strong. There was quite a strong anti-English feeling at that stage ... he ... we were all put into 6B or 5B, whatever our ages were. We were put into the B streams. And my mother went to see him and said, ‘You mustn't put my child in the B class, she's very clever’, or something which made it quite hard actually for me. And I was put up into the A class where I found I was behind in some things, way behind. But then in class, in school, things began to get better for me. We had ... I had a teacher called Cookie who actually made something of the fact that I was different. Again, I had the different hair. I think I was still with a fringe, and he used to call me Claudette, after Claudette Colbert. And he took ... he paid me a lot of attention in terms of helping me catch up, where I was behind. And he allowed me free reign in writing where I was ... which I really enjoyed.
And I began to have friends in that school, in that class ... so life was beginning to look up for me. But the poverty stuff, or relative poverty because we were never starving, never-the-less as children we decided we should do something about this. And I conceived the idea of stealing plants from the ... initially from people's gardens, which we stole and we packaged up, and we sold either at the roadside a long way away from where we had stolen them, or we went to corner grocery stores and we'd sell them there ... and we also stole fruit from people's gardens. Hanging over fruit, or vacant blocks, we'd go in and nick all the lemons and we'd package them up. And I was the kind of ringleader of this gang, and I think because it was my idea I cashed in on it. And then we realised that stealing flowers from people's gardens was fairly limited and we should really tackle this on a big scale thing — think big — so we started to steal the flowers and the plants from the municipal flower beds.
And I remember on one occasion we lifted the entire pansy beds that were surrounding the town hall clock, or the town hall in Nedlands. We just stripped rows and rows of pansies. And we brought them back and we packaged them up, and we sold them and we made quite a lot of money, and we used to give some of it to our mothers with totally fabricated stories about how we'd scrubbed somebody's floor or done some work at the shop or things that our parents never checked up on. Our mothers never checked up on ... what else did we do?
Oh, I remember the other thing that we did, which I was always slightly ashamed of, and still am, was that I discovered, I realised, I looked in the newspapers and there were advertisements for 'Lovely kitty wants a home' or 'Pretty puppy, very cute, needs good home.' So we'd go around to the addresses and we'd persuade the owner of lovely kitty or pretty puppy that we could give it a wonderful home and our parents were quite happy about this, and we'd take these animals home and we'd tie bows around their necks and then we'd sell those on the street corner. And we did quite well out of that. So this lasted probably for about six months. And then one of the mothers, in actual fact the French mother, my godmother, the one who was widowed, woke up to the fact that one day the desert was blooming like a rose because any of the plants that we didn't sell, we planted in our garden because the landlord would come around and inspect the garden. And she suddenly looked out the window and there in front of her bedroom window were rows and rows of pansies that hadn't been there the day before. And she managed to find out what we were doing. And she told us that this must stop. And we obeyed it because we felt it was getting a bit dodgy. One of the girls at school had seen us doing this and had threatened to report it.
[end of tape]