Enduring Threads: part 20

Seductive Sydney 1966

I flew up to Sydney in the summer holidays and stayed with the Aureli family. Bert had finished treatment, including shock treatment, at a Mosman medical centre. I believed he was better. The weather was warm, and my relationship with Bert blossomed. We’d take Tino’s little motorboat for picnics to all sorts of hidden nooks around the harbour. One day we were swimming in the warm waters of a deserted cove when a fisherman called out,

‘I saw a shark swimming there this morning! It is their playground.’                                              We shot out of the water so fast and after that were much more careful.

Elfie was working in a smart Italian shoe shop. Bert and I arrived – with garlic breath, each with many love bites.

‘Off you go, before you frightened the customers away!’

The sub-tropical warmth of Sydney, our youth and the giddiness of undiluted lust and love intoxicated us both.

The house at 39 Killarney Street, Mosman was filled with paintings and Italian treasures. Elfie’s special gift to make everything look sophisticated and yet homely where- ever she lived, made their home unique and appealing. Her knitting and embroidery abilities were top class. She had knitted me a jumper and crocheted me a magnificent cape in dark green wool with black trimmings whilst living in Hobart. She also crocheted a black and rusty red carry-bag that I loved and carried for years. Elfie’s handiwork had an Austrian influence, as she was brought up in Tarvisio, which was in Austria before the First World War. Tarvisio then became part of Italy after the war, and so, German remained her native tongue and Italian her second language.

During the Second World War when Umberto was a baby, (born in Turino, 1939), Elfie told a story of going to get milk. When a German soldier intercepted her pointing his rifle at her, she shouted at him in German. This saved her life.

Tino, Umberto’s father, was born and brought up in Rimini, Italy.  I only found out about his story after Bert and I separated, when Bert’s parents came to stay with us at Easter time in Devonport in 1976. There were many surprises ahead, but when Umberto and I became engaged officially in February 1967, I was blithely unaware of any of these family secrets.


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