A year at home
External exams in the large city hall were very daunting. My mother kept her promise; I left after passing the Schools Board, happy to be away from boarding school. Matriculation wasn’t for me. Mum kept me home the following year. I did part of a typing course and also became totally absorbed in painting and drawing classes at the local Tech. Christopher talked me into going to art school. He painted my portrait in his holidays; but I later painted over it, never appreciating seeing myself, and I didn’t realise its future historical significance.
Religion had always interested me. ‘Why don’t you go to Bible College?’ the young minister asked, when he came to afternoon tea. I had so many questions, but he answered none. He was a total loss. I certainly didn’t want to go to Bible College.
Conventional religion didn’t answer my questions. There were so many things I couldn’t accept. It was the following year that I discovered the Quakers, or Friends. Questions were welcomed amongst Friends. Because they had no set dogma there were all sorts of interesting people attracted to the Meeting House. One accepted principle was pacifism, and this appealed to me. They supported the young conscripts who didn’t want to join the army and fight in Vietnam. My mother and two sisters had been sent to The Friends’ School, as my grandfather had greatly admired the Quakers. Here my mother’s distaste for meat was accepted, and she was able to go home and tell her family she no longer had to eat meat.
In the winter of 1963 Uncle Henry took my mother and me to Queensland for a holiday. We stopped in Melbourne and Sydney on the way, catching up with Henry’s friends in expensive restaurants. After dinner at my first night club, the Latin Quarter, we drove around Kings Cross looking at the night life.
Hiring a car in Brisbane we travelled up to Rockhampton and then west, where we met distant relatives on a large cattle station. Such generous hospitality seems to be the way of the outback. Their closely- knit family was essential for survival and happiness, living in such isolation.
We then holidayed at Surfer’s Paradise. The tropical fruits were delicious; feeding the parrots and watching the dolphins made the holiday seem exotic. Relaxing under palm trees, enjoying the warmth and tasting fresh coconuts, made the Tasmanian winter storms an unreality.
In Devonport, Vita Endelmanis helped me design smocks to wear at art school; also suggesting
how I could wear stockings and skivvies to match, underneath the smocks. It was good to have a mentor, as I’d never before been encouraged to think about any form of creative dress, or what might suit me. I loved black and coloured stockings.
Mrs. Westcombe, the butcher’s wife, was my chaperone when I went to the summer school in January before I started art school. We stayed at a small hotel nearby. It was an enjoyable and appropriate introduction to art school as it was held in the same Gothic building, as the art school, up on the Hobart Domain. Going out watercolour painting in Battery Point and starting my sketch- book helped me feel I was on the way to becoming an art student.
The year at home was wonderful. During the year I had a boyfriend called Des. I met him at an end-of-school year party in Sheffield. He wore a cadmium-yellow jumper, which suited him very well. He was studying a trades teaching course at Technical College in Hobart and I only saw him during holidays. We went to the drive-in. My mother warned me of what could happen there. I came home most disappointed or was it relieved? This friendship fizzled when I went to Hobart.