I seem to remember more of my sister’s stormy teenage passage than my own. My memories of my years at secondary school aren’t so much about friends and relationships but the activities I engaged in and the decisions made about school subjects, which club to belong to and which sporting activities. For my special study options I chose Economics and more daringly ‘Learning to Fly,’ Japanese and Comparative Religions. After school I would ride home along the cliff tops, to our Edwardian villa in Devonport for a rushed afternoon tea of milk, bread and honey. Then I would grab my ballet shoes and music books and ride on to the ballet class or piano lesson. It was a well organized, structured life.
The things I remember most fondly though are walking the dog on the beach at the right tide and watching Dad’s boat take shape slowly in the shed he’d built from second-hand timber, behind the house. I was the first to sleep in this yacht as it sat up in its cradle ready for the launch some days later. A Hartley 24, it was modified by my Dad to include an enlarged cockpit for family cruising, a rashly considered petrol inboard motor to be improved years later and an Australian name ‘Tirranna,’ to acknowledge Mum’s place of birth.
My Dad’s boat-building may have been tiresome to my mother who allowed him to progress his ambitious project while she managed the family, cared for her mother and found a quiet friendship in the ‘Young Wives’ of our Church. We never really knew if she felt restricted only that she had originally wanted to be a journalist.
The day I answered the phone to be told my grandmother had died and that I was to tell my mother is etched on my memory. They were returning from a late night closing at our shop in Hurstmere Road and I glimpsed them through the stippled glass of the front door standing, quietly, for a moment. With great effort I greeted them with a composed expression on my face. ‘I’ve had a phone call from the rest home. It’s about Nana…’