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VANDA MARY SANDERS HOWDEN (nee FISKE) Autobiography

Printed Oct 1980. Followed by Eulogy.

Compiled and Edited Aug 2000 by son Dr. Patrick ffyske Howden, BackYard TEch, Cone St,

Macleay Island, 4184, Australia. Tel/Fax: (07) 34095100.

 

According to authoritative text I have - "Fiske Family Papers" - Family Fiske are traced back to about 100 years after mid Viking times. Scottish background Father's name Howden is found the same as a Yorkshire moor, weir, town... as well as a Norwegian village etc - an indication of similar Viking descent.

 

Victoria Street, Kensington, London is a narrow little street and on a corner half way down and still standing is a small old Georgian style 2 storey, basement house in which I was born. My Mother, who was born Grace Baldry, told me my Father, William Fiske, had straw strewn up and down the road to make the horse drawn carriages less noisy for my Mother, who was very ill - one cannot imagine what the noise is like from the present traffic.

My Mother was an artist, one of 13 children who lived in an old manor house in Norfolk and who, due to my Grandfather's leaning towards music rather than attaining a lucrative living, they were extremely poor. My Father, William Sanders Fiske, was the second son of Thomas and Elizabeth. The family consisted of Alice a nurse, Edith who helped to keep house, Dr. Thomas Fiske and Ada who appeared ta do odd jobs. I never knew my Grandfather who died before I was born, but my Grandmother lived many years. They were Plymouth Brethren and lived in Parkstone near Bournemouth. My Grandmother wore black clothes and a white starched cap with tails from the time my Grandfather died, also a stiff 2" wide black leather belt with all the household keys on it; even salt was locked up! I only met my Mother's Father once when I drove my Mother down to Littlehampton to see him and we took him, aged 96, for his first drive in a car at a steady 10mph. He was a small man with a good sense of humour and could still play many tunes from operas from memory on his violin at his advanced age. He must have been impecunious and quite happy go lucky and my Father regularly gave my Mother 7/6 a week to buy a postal note for him for tobacco money.

I have never known where and how my Father and Mother met. I heard that my Grandmother wanted my Father to become an architect and certainly he had a facility in drawing, though he left home for London and managed to put himself through Law School by working in the Law firm of Gedge Fiske & Co. He and my Mother must have met in London at this time and she had a studio near Lancaster Gate. They were married at St. Matthews Church, Bayswater on August 25th, 1897 and lived at 8 Leinster Mansions, Hampstead. They are buried in Highgate Cemetery, London. (When I visited graves early 1970s, someone else's graves had been attended to all those decades - ed).

My Mother's Brother, Harry Baldry, whom I never met, was also an artist and I believe he has portraits at Windsor Castle.

He died of tuberculosis when quite young, but he and my Mother did go to Italy to paint and there she was greatly influenced by the Italian painters Titian and Tintoretto. I believe nearly all her family was either artistic or musical and she herself was a very clever portrait painter, particularly as she had never been able to afford lessons. She exhibited in the Royal Academy in London, and was "hung on the line" as they called the first row of pictures. She told me she met a Jewish lady who introduced her to many people for portraits and in this way she was able to do well painting people such as Lord Mayors English Cities.

Finally she was able to take herself and 2 sickly sisters over to Canada for them to be in a more suitable climate. She herself returned to England and must have married my Father shortly afterwards. Two less-alike characters would be hard to find, my father from a religious and very strict family and my Mother from a Bohemian upbringing in a talented artistic and musical family. My Father was a very clever man and passed his law exams about eighth in England and frequently won prizes. My Mother I believe had little or no education; she could read and write, add up a little and that was all. My father was shy and very reserved, my Mother all extrovert and could have made an amusing comedy actress. Besides painting she could play any music by ear and had a very attractive contralto voice. They had one son, my Brother Guy; oddly enough I cannot remember anything about him in early years.

Earliest recollections are of our 2-storey house in Wimbledon just at the top of the hill. It had the normal back walled garden with a large tree in it. I can remember the cork-floored nursery with its fire and brass fireguard and Nanny carrying me up the stairs. Also I was allowed to peep through the banisters when my parents entertained. I can remember my Mother pushing me out in a big pram and when we came across some gipsies in their caravan she sang the song to me about:

"My Mother said I never should

Talk to the gipsies in the wood

If I did, she would say

Come along gipsies and take her away".

This literally terrified me, whereas I had loved their brightly coloured caravans previously. I can remember being fed largely on Plasmon biscuits soaked in milk for supper. It must have been the 'pre-baby food' fad for children.

I never asked why we moved to Kensington, but I suppose Wimbledon was a long way for my Father to travel to the City to work, though the flat we moved to was really unsuitable for children. It was on the 7th floor of Albert Hall Mansions, opposite the Albert Hall - I think No. 68. Almost at once I was sent to my Brother's boarding school, St.Clare at Walmer, Kent. I was the only girl, only 4 years old and there was a very nice elderly maid called Sarah who mostly seemed to look after me.

I can remember the lamplighters in the streets of London lighting the gas lamps and also our chimneys being cleaned by a chimney sweep and all the fuss and preparations to cover the furniture and clean up afterwards.

There were also the fire brigades drawn by horses and the excitement and clatter they produced.

I had lessons with the boys and was learning French at the age of five. I got on with them all very well. Strangely enough during World War 2 in Australia at a cocktail party for a visiting RN ship HMS Ramillies, I met a Commander Waters who had also been at St.Clare and remembered my maiden name. He told me he had given me a brass ring at the age of six or seven!

The only bad events at this School were when I tried to pat an old white horse mowing the playing field. It turned and bit me on the cheek and another event, going with the boys and being 'dared' to watch pigs being slaughtered in a farm next door and standing on something to see over the wall and falling off in a terrible state on seeing the poor pig.

Very early in life my Brother and I spent a summer at our family friend's place, Mrs.Price and her unmarried daughter Dody at Pinner, Harrow. In those days there were hay fields across the Road and our garden was huge, so we often had afternoon tea outdoors and I have photos of us there with my Brother dressed up as Bonnie Prince Charlie. I remained friends with Dody Price right up to several years after my marriage and she was living in Eastbourne with an old friend of hers and I took Merlin and Patrick down to see her when we were in England (when? 1930s).

I was really happy at St.Clare. I saw little of my Brother who was 4 years older, nor can I remember any of the staff other than Sarah who cared for me, or the journeys to and from school.

Later I was sent to the Junior House of Roedean School, Brighton and I well remember my first term when I was 'put into Coventry' by the other girls for some reason entirely unknown to myself. No one spoke to me unless told to do so by a teacher and I hated them all after the friendly little boys I had been used to. I could not understand girls who pulled one's hair and pinched.

However, eventually I made some friends, two of whom are still my friends today - Kathleen Archer, Mrs.Gemmill of Rhodesia and Kitty Owen, an American girl, now Mrs.Spence of New York. Kitty and I, when at the Senior School, were caught climbing on the roof of the Chapel by the Head Mistress, Miss Laurence, but she only reminded us that it was her responsibility to see we did not kill ourselves at School!

During the War we took a dislike to all foreigners and a poor Belgian girl, Yvonne de Jaeger, got a fearful teasing and was shut in the underneath pipe lines and given only an apple and told to crawl the length of the school to get out. However I think she was let out sooner, or I hope so!

Kathleen and Kitty were in the Junior School at my age; other friends I made in the Senior House later. Kitty was a wonderful girl, extremely pretty, so unusual in a schoolgirl, curly blonde hair, blue eyes and a lovely figure. She was extremely talented in the arts, could play anything by ear on the piano and also play made up tunes as she went along. She was excellent at dancing and also a gymnast. I don't think she was good at the 3 Rs, but she could write poetry and draw and paint.

At home life was pleasant until World War I. My Mother and Father gave very small dinner parties at times. I can only remember a few of the people; one was a Turk whom my parents called T.T. for the Terrible Turk who spoke fluent English. Another was a Mr.Wilson Lovatt, a businessman from Wolverhampton and a longstanding friend, Mrs. and Miss Remer, also our family doctor Dr.Cutler, who lived in a lovely old Georgian home nearby. My Mother painted his father's portrait from an old photograph. Our flat was solid but very ugly; the front hall had a full-length mirror with a huge window box of aspidistras in it and I or my Mother washed their leaves in milk from time to time. All walls were papered in dark brown - my Mother thought that showed off pictures well - except the dining room which had scarlet walls and black carved wood furniture.

The drawing room was upholstered in gold and held my Mother's piano with a gold curtain hanging down its back and a 5ft high black wooden stand holding a large brass container with yet another aspidistra! Drawing room and dining room had narrow balconies and our canary hung in its cage whenever it was sunny outside. I used to be sent down to High Street Kensington to buy a pennyworth of groundsell from the old bonneted lady selling it in the street.

I cannot remember any children coming to play with us and although my Grandmother sent me a really lovely doll and made a satin cape and frock for it with hood edged with fluffy stuff, I put it away and loved only my old Teddy Bear. I longed for animals and eventually we got a little dog from Derry & Toms Store, a Yorkshire Terrier whom I called Curly, though, no doubt due to incorrect feeding, Curly developed skin troubles and was sent to my cousin's gamekeeper in Axmouth Devon where he had a very happy life.

During the holidays my brother and I were sent to Kensington Gardens to sail our boats. Guy was quite fearless and launched his off to the middle of the Round Pond with gay abandon. It always returned safely, whereas I was terrified I would lose mine becalmed in the middle and timidly pushed it out about 2 feet where it was immediately becalmed and I became frantic. Aside from this occupation our only other amusement in holidays was to use one pair of roller skates between us, my Brother's on his right foot and mine on my left and go round and round the Albert Hall pavements.

I know I was taken on one grand occasion at Christmas to see a play, which was 'Pinkie and the Fairies', my first play and I can remember being absolutely spellbound, but I cannot recall any of the play.

I know we must have been rather poor in those days. My Mother made most of her frocks with the help of a dear old lady called Mrs.Pell who eventually made, with my Mother, all my school uniforms for Roedean. This made me feel very singled out at school, as I was the only girl I knew of who did not have embroidery on the top of her after school frock. I think it must have been difficult for my Father to meet our boarding school fees. My Mother often 'turned' her coat and skirts to wear them longer.

My Mother and Father had totally different characters. My Mother was an extrovert and loved theatres and concerts and going out; my Father hated going out and loved his books and antiques and a very quiet life. My Mother took me to church on Sundays and on Sunday afternoons we nearly always went to a very high up seat in a gallery next to the organ at the Albert Hall Sunday's Concert. So every holiday I had access to good music, although my Brother was far more musical than I was and could play from ear like my Mother. I cannot remember him going to concerts with us. My Mother could sing also. I remember also, watching the suffragettes having a rally at the Albert Hall and Christabel Pankhurst being arrested, all or which we could see from our balcony.

In the afternoons my Mother had a 'rest' and my Brother and I lay on the floor with books and a pillow, plus seven toiled sugar sweets each. The floor was supposed to be good for our backs but I think all the books we read probably did us more good!

The great excitement of the year was Christmas and our cousin Maud Stephens in Devonshire sent us up a big hamper of food, usually pheasants and salmon and fruit and vegetables from her estate.

Oddly enough for an artist my Mother was an excellent cook, but we also had a dear cook-cum-general factotum, Mary Anne Lee from the Presentation Convent in Mullingar, Ireland. Her two sisters who were married also knew us, but they traded upon poor Mary Anne who gave them all her salary and nearly kept all their children. She was a most remarkable person, dark with a high colour and a terrific sense of humour. She scoured the flat on the day-a-week cleaning day, with damp tealeaves (eliminates mites!) on the floor and a hard broom.

If I was at home I polished furniture, in particular a large old mahogany chest in the hall on which my Mother loved to keep a brass bowl with marigolds brightly reflected in the polished mahogany.

Mary Anne had her spaniel dog Shawnie over from Ireland but he wasn't trained for traffic and lay down in Kensington High Street. On sending him home she hadn't heard if he had arrived and sent a telegram 'DID DOG ARRIVE AND WHAT WAS HIS FARE?' to the Mother Superior.

I visited the Presentation Convent once when I was on holiday and stayed in Mullingar at a little old inn with candlelight and had lunch with the Nuns and had to help them nail flags to a pole for a fete as they nailed their fingers.

In our August holidays my Father twice took us across to Oost in Belgium where we had endless fun on the sandy beaches and riding down the sandhills. Our parents played golf together, my Mother on the handicap of 7 and my Father about 14, as no doubt he had less time to play. We sometimes had an old friend Mr.Cresskey with us who also golfed. I thought it was all heaven and took years getting over my disappointment at not going in the year the 1st World War broke out. In fact, our picnic basket and trunk of clothes went off in advance and, of all things, the basket was returned to us after the War 5 years later, undamaged!

My Father joined up as a 'Special Constable' (like ARP Warden) at nights and also paid for a Canteen for soldiers on Purfleet Rifle Range at the Docks. My Mother ran this Canteen and clad in long skirt, boots, a blouse and old coat did all the work herself. In holidays I went down with her and have a photo of myself serving out sweets that were 5 for 1d. We had hot cocoa and pies and sandwiches of a sort with tea. After a while I noticed the men we served becoming older and worse in health and I, who was taught to shoot at school could have done better. One poor old fellow had epileptic fits; I was shocked to see him. My Mother was extremely fitted to run this canteen; she could make anyone laugh and had masses of comic stories and was kindness itself. I was usually so tired at the end of a day that I fell asleep on the train seat coming home; also it was so cold in winter.

Another expedition was to get up at 4 a.m. and go to Covent Garden Market and buy for the Canteen and fruit and vegetables for ourselves. My Mother made excellent jams and marmalades. My Mother and Brother and I all did SANDOW exercises in our bathroom every morning; it was very popular in those days and consisted of two handles attached to long elastic ropes which were attached to the wall and you pulled against the elastic. After that my Mother and I had to plunge into a cold bath winter and summer. I hated the whole procedure and I doubt if it did anyone any good.

During the War I was at home in the holidays until the air raids. I remember vividly one raid. We had guests for dinner and Mary Anne had cooked sprats, when the sirens went and the guns at Marble Arch started to fire. For some reason we all went out on to our back verandah where our ice chest was kept and in the sky I -'saw the Zeppelin on fire, which came down at Cuffley near Enfield. Then we were whisked down seven flights of stairs to the basement where we sat and ate sprats amongst the hot water pipes. (apparently she quick-sketched such event to fill-paint later - ed). A bomb fell in Exhibition Road next street to ours and I can still remember its 'whistle' as it came down and wondering if I'd be alive. I was literally terrified. Next day we saw the immense crater it made, luckily missing the Science and Natural History and Victoria & Albert Museums.

After that it was decided we should go to my Grandmother's home at Parkstone for holidays, which I hated as, although she never scolded, she was severe and my Auntie Alice even more so. However my Auntie Ada really liked having us and took us to the roller skating rink in Bournemouth and let us have what we liked for lunch, which was always tongue and a large piece of cake. My Grandfather had been a dear old gentleman -Thomas Fiske - and my Mother had painted his portrait. Yet she and my Grandmother had nothing in common, despite my Mother being very good to my Aunties, ensuring they got nice warm eiderdowns for their beds, stopping the cuckoo clock in the hall so it did not wake everyone up. My Grandmother being deaf never heard it anyway!

My Auntie Alice, Uncle Tom and Auntie Edith had gone off to Aylesbury (stone circles - ed) at one stage, where he was a doctor and Alice a nurse whilst Edith housekept. But my Grandmother sent for them all to come back as she said as a 'widow she needed them'. My Auntie Edith was very nice looking and the Estate Agent of a big property near Aylesbury that he looked after had asked her to marry him, which she wanted to do. Unfortunately he had a title and my Grandmother refused to allow her to do so, saying 'You are not to set your cap at a person so far above you' - so poor Edith never married neither any of the daughters.

Their drawing room was a mass of small tables to hold all sorts of little ornaments called 'What nots' plus a very slippery horsehair sofa on which we had to sit to hear prayers and Bible reading from the family Bible by my Uncle Tom before breakfast each day. Servants came up from the kitchen for it. Everyone disliked this formality except for Granny, to whom it was a lifelong institution. After her death it was discontinued in the household.

At the back of their house they had a croquet lawn and a little summerhouse where Granny sat and watched us all play. This we enjoyed. I offered to help my Uncle Tom weed his garden, but was only allowed to do so on great sufferance as he grew prize carnations each tied up to a stick with one bloom on each. So reminiscent of the family, my Mother thought.

After the War we went to Sandbanks, a peninsula out of Poole Harbour and used to bicycle over to see Granny, a very exhausting hill climb, but lovely going back.

At school we had terrible food in World War I, usually rice thrice daily, as a cereal for breakfast, with tiny bits of mince in it for dinner and again as a cereal for supper, with black treacle over it. No fruit and few vegetables. We were mostly all very thin and very hungry. I remember throwing a breadboard across a room because I couldn't get any more bread.'

At school I was reasonably good at sports. I remember our 2nd Eleven-Cricket team won every match against other schools one summer. I loved the sports and am still interested in Cricket and at school we played Hockey and Lacrosse, but not Tennis at that time. (For years before she died, there was little else on her TV or radio but sports, frequently all night - ed). We had a good swimming pool and learnt at the end of a moving pole with belt attached. It was a covered enclosed pool so we had rings we could swing on above it. In winter the senior girls learnt shooting there with extraordinarily out of alignment rifles. Also we learnt carpentering and in the war made crutches for wounded men, never 2 crutches the same height! We also knitted what were called 'Serbian Squares' - no-one could make out what for. Later we were told they were for Serbs to use as saddle cloths.

My great joy was the studio where I learnt painting and clay modelling. I loved gymnastics and was in my House Team. I didn't like learning piano and rarely tried to practice. Yet I liked singing in the choir (extremely badly). We had a very beautiful Chapel.

It was decided that I should do Senior Cambridge Exam rather than Matric, as it included Art as a subject and I was so poor at Maths. We had a great many subjects: English, History, Geography, Chemistry, Botany, Art, French and French conversation and Arithmetic. We were taught Elocution and Scripture. For the former a formidable lady came down from the College of Dramatic Art in London to hear us read an unseen passage to her individually. I think most of us could read well and grammar classes were very strict.

Unless we had to go to a dentist or it was half term, we stayed in the school grounds the whole term, though we never felt 'enclosed'. There was one outlet, a tunnel to the beach in the cliffs followed by awful rocks to walk on in the sea, with at least 360 steps to climb back up the tunnel. The only other outings were free Thursdays, when we went careering over the Sussex Downs led and chased by 2 teachers on a 'Scout run' - we literally ran all the way for 2.5 hours non stop up hill and down dale and drank almost a basin of water on return. I know I should have stayed on another year as I was very immature, but all my friends who were mostly 18 were leaving, although I was just 17. Only Kathleen Archer remained on and became a Senior Prefect.

I can remember I was anything but happy at home, lonely for my school friends. However, I decided I must do something and my Father and I went to see a little hospital down at the Docks where I could train to nurse. There was small pox down there and my Father was anxious about me living in a room nearby, so that idea fell through. I started working one day a week voluntarily at a Creche for poor children off Nottinghill Gate in a slum area (where lady friend Paddy and I lived 1969-73 - ed).

This was an eye opener for me, the children were delightful, aged about 3 months to 6 years, yet so dirty and tattered and ill fed. We changed their clothes to our own and washed them and took lice out of their hair, fed them, played games, gave them a rest on stretchers and taught them songs and plays. One little fellow, Billy, really got to me, he was hopelessly retarded mentally, still he always knew me and clung to me like a little dog. I learned he had three mental sisters and the Mother was mental also. Several children came from families with TB and yet had to pick up drink from a nearby pub for their parents on their way home. Only the Matron was a paid worker and she a very wonderful woman.

My Mother and I painted in one of the Museums. As long as one copied a picture one could use the Museum almost as a studio. I also started at the Chelsea Art School and was horrified at my first life drawing class to be confronted by a nude model playing tennis against a wall. I had no idea how to draw her if she had remained stationary, let alone if moving! I learnt a great deal there from drawing front casts, but eventually it had to be given up, as my Mother had not been well for some time with heart trouble and arthritis.

I started Spanish lessons and could speak and read quite well. So she and I went overseas on a ship via Panama to Los Angeles to stay with a very nice American couple at Santa Barbara in a charming little house at Montecito. Each day breakfast on the patio with dinner at a quiet restaurant nearby. My Mother gave them instructions in Art. I went down to Los Angeles and stayed with a delightful elderly American lady we knew and for the first time ate pickled peaches before sleeping in a four poster bed with white chiffon curtains. Then I met again a Swiss boy I had been friendly with, Rene Fix, the last time I saw him for many years. He was to die in a car crash in Brazil some years later.

My Mother and I also fitted in a visit to Japan our way to Hong Kong and home. We met a very nice couple from Chicago and travelled with them. We were shocked to see the devastation in Tokyo caused by the tremendous earthquake they had. Our hotel being of reinforced concrete was the only one standing and everywhere tramlines were buckled and upended. Oddly enough the little fragile looking Japanese houses of paper and wood were frequently still standing

We carried on to Nikko which is so beautiful surrounded by trees with a red lacquer bridge and very ancient temples. On our train to Kyoto we sampled the Japanese lunch boxes of matchwood, bought through the train window. Inside was raw fish which none of us could eat, although it was considered a delicacy. The women's kimonos were beautiful and their little shoes much more colourful than the clothes in China.

We found a curved narrow all devoted to shops selling teapots. We were a bit disappointed that although the cherry blossom in parks was lovely they had no lawns, only pebbles on the ground.

I had been out to the winter sports at Klosters and Davos with a friend of my Mother's and her family, Violet Kidd, but I caught measles and had to remain at Klosters whilst they went on to Davos. My Mother came out to be with me and we became friendly with an Australian girl Linda Giddings (nee McMaster) and her husband. They introduced me (I was 18) to an Australian man Harry who was later to become my husband. But I went on up to Davos and again had bad luck injuring my knee in a heavy fall. I was so disappointed as I loved skiing and had climbed the Buhlenhorn Mountain with a party of skiers. Only 2 guides, 2 men and myself got to the top. The view was marvellous, but as so often happens on mountaintops there was an icy wind that made our lunch break rather miserable. The guide had to help me down a good deal. My Mother again came to meet me in Paris where followed a bad heart attack. A French doctor told her how very ill she was, as she never bothered to take care of herself.

Several times I went with her overseas in winter because of her acute arthritis; twice to Biskra in Algeria where the legendary Garden of Allah is situated. It is a date plantation watered by artificial little channels running between palms and very lovely brilliant bougainvillea trailing over white walls of a small building in the garden.

I painted in the Market Place and several Arabs came up to watch and were intrigued. One had a bandage over an eye and when I asked to see it he showed me a badly infected eye. So I set off to a chemist and bought ordinary Boracic powder plus an eye glass with distilled water and showed the Arab how to rinse the eye at least four times daily and to keep it open, never bandaged and in three days it was well.

We became friendly with some German girls and a Polish girl there, the latter named Eveline Woyniewicz, whom I think with her husband, were killed by the Germans during the War, and their Estate confiscated. We all learnt to ride, though one day the guide brought me a very difficult horse that bolted straight away. How I remained on it I really can't imagine, except that I was athletic and finally thought I'd pull on one rein with both hands until its head was almost looking over its shoulder. This finally stopped it. I found out from the Police that it was a horse ridden by the army and accustomed to galloping off into the blue directly it was out of Biskra. This habit should have prevented it being used by tourists.

An interesting person we met at the hotel was Elizabeth whose complexion really needed all her products, as it was like leather:

We also met a friend of H.G.Wells, Odette Keun, who was very kind to me, as she knew my Father who had become H.G.Wells' solicitor. She was a French authoress who lived in Wells' south of France home. She was quite ugly, but immensely attractive, vivacious and interesting. My Father came out for a short holiday at this time and it was a rest for him, although I don't think there was much to interest him in Biskra. It was a colourful time with the French Foreign Legion in the Town and the Arab Spahis in their red burnoose robes. We saw a kind of military tattoo, the Arabs on magnificent horses riding at full gallop across the desert.

At nights the German girls and we went on camels to visit anything: Arab encampments to eat their highly flavoured 'Cous-cous'. These were hotter than Indian curries with small pieces of lamb or goat in the cereal. We saw many caravans setting off for Timbucktoo further south. Claire Sheridan the author was also there.

After one of these overseas trips my Mother and I returned to find that my Father had bought a tiny piece of land in Hyde Park Gate, Kensington and built a rather pretty house there, with a roof garden and greenhouse on top of it. It was in the same little cul-de-sac where Winston Churchill retired and where the famous sculptor Epstein lived.

The drawback to the house was that it was right on top of the pavement and the traffic from the main road High Street, Kensington, thundered day and night. So my Father and Mother changed rooms as she did not mind it so much. My Brother had a room upstairs with the piano in it. Regrettably he was not working and had only had a few rare months of work here and there. He was very clever and had passed all law exams until his finals, which he refused to take (like Conrad for years at Uni - ed). My Father put him into a business as manager of a big bus garage as Guy was very mechanically minded. This again fell through. He and I never had a quarrel or dispute, he was such an easy going fellow, though his romance with Violet Kidd broken off by her father when Guy did not do his final law exams, seemed to shatter his whole life. This was when I was only 16 and obviously of no help to him.

At this time I set off each day to a secretarial course, leaving when my Father went to work. The course was in Regent Street near the Polytechnic. There I met a lifelong friend there Phyllis Colebrook, also doing the course. We would lunch at odd little teashops near the British Museum. We both finished the course and she went on to a job whilst I decided to go to the Regent Street Polytechnic to study sculpture - again I was dismayed to find myself in a class with students working for the Prix de Rome, huge full size statues. However, another girl and I were started on just the model's head, other days doing drapery in clay. I really loved the work.

My Mother and I had been to Italy and on the way back we stayed in Holland when I was 18. There we met a family named Van Doesburg of the Dutch biscuit family. The two sisters, Nolly and Marguerite (Peggy) became lifelong friends and were forever trying to instigate a marriage between their brother Richard and I. He and I danced in London whenever he was in England, but I never fancied living in Holland although I liked visiting the country so much.

Another lifelong friend was Simone Reutlinger from Paris. She stayed with me in London in our former flat there. We met them at Saint Briac in Brittany on a summer holiday. Whilst my Father and Mother golfed, Simone and I went for swims and met friends. With her parents we set off to see lovely old French places, such Mont Saint Michel joined to the mainland by a causeway, where we had the best 'omelettes' I had ever tasted at a little French restaurant built into the cliff face below the Abbey. My Mother was very good to Aime Reutlinger when she was taken ill in the hotel and in return they invited me over to Paris for a holiday.

My Father liked the husband very much, as he was interested in antiques too, although a photographer by career. I think I was 18 when I stayed with them and still had hair down my back: They had a tiny little flat in the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower and there I lived a completely French life. Only Simone and her father spoke English, so I had to learn French. Sundays I went with Simone to Mass and then we met all her young friends and walked in the Bois de Boulogne, and in the afternoons to Museums with Monsieur Reutlinger. I can remember seeing Marie Antoinette's shoes, about our size 2 - I thought they were for a child.

If Simone was invited to a Ball, her parents and her grandmother came as our chaperones. She was allowed to invite her young friends and cousins to her flat where she played the piano and sang songs. We danced in her room about 15ft x 10ft. In the mornings rugs were rolled up and we did dusting and cleaning with dusters on our feet, which polished the floors! Then we went to the Markets and brought back their staple foods, always steak with watercress for dinners and often a cheese omelette followed - absolutely delicious. Simone's eldest brother was killed in the War and her younger one only called round once; he was considered the 'black sheep of the family' and there was a terrible row.

Our main occupation was to get Simone married and her father had decided upon a young army officer named Milliot, who was about half Simone's height and whom she called 'Le petit Milliot'. There was an extraordinary old lift in the flats of rattling wire like a cage. Simone insisted on the 'petit Milliot' going down on his knees and begging for her hand in marriage in the lift! I was covered in confusion, as I felt he was serious whereas Simone was joking - so on his knees he went.

Simone's family were all enchanting. George and Georgette Demontmorot, cousins with a baby girl to whose apartment we went for dinners. They lived with their grandparents in a huge apartment. Then there was dear old Grandmere who spoke no English albeit such a friendly soul. Plus Simone's cousin Manon Stephan who had to work and was a dress designer, as well as her fiance Robert Stephan and one of my beaus, an English banker, who used to take us out too. We had such very happy times. Simone was the liveliest wire one could imagine. I was eventually a bridesmaid at Manon and Robert's marriage.

Simone had an Aunt who was a famous French actress of the Comedie Francaise, Cecile Sorel, acting mostly in plays such as Moliere's. She was not married then, but was great friends of the Comte de Segur. She was very kind to my Mother and I when my Mother was in Paris and took us to the theatre in her car and drove us home later. When I stayed with Simone she invited us all to dinner one night. I remember I had no evening dress, just a black silk afternoon one with a red rose at the waist and my hair down as usual. Mme.Sorel couldn't speak English, still she was enchanting to me and took me to her room and put my hair up with comb,s putting the red rose from my frock in my hair (I never wore my hair down again!). (Boo hoo - ed).

The apartment was magnificent with marble floors and Persian rugs and lovely antique furniture. The dinner table was marble with cloth of gold covering it and at one end of the huge dining room was a fountain playing over masses of flowers. Everyone was so kind to me, a little 18-year-old girl from London. Later Simone came to stay with me in London but somehow, probably because of her Catholic religion, the suitable men I could introduce her to shied off except as a distant friend. No-one would think of marriage, it seemed. Nevertheless we had great fun and one fine July night after dancing with friends, Simone and I danced all the way down Piccadilly at midnight with our party.!

A friend of mine, Michael Franklin, invited us to Oxford University O.U.D.S. Ball (Oxford Union Dramatic Society). We went by train and changed at a hotel, as it was a fancy dress Ball. We danced all night followed by breakfast on the river in a punt to arrive home with balloons hanging out of the train windows and fast asleep in a corner.

We also went to a magnificent Ball at the Van den Berg's house in Kensington Palace Gardens, the margarine family. I had met Elsie the daughter in Switzerland skiing. It was a wonderful home and Simone looked lovely in brilliant red chiffon, a frock given to her by her actress aunt.

During several years I travelled in winter with my Mother. The first long trip was to Argentina and back on the same ship SS Andes. I was most impressed by my first view of a tropical land at Santos, Brazil. We had made friends with two Nuns on the ship and my Mother decided to go ashore for the day and take a car drive as it was incredibly hot and humid. We drove all along the beach on extremely hard sand, quite the best way to keep cool for the day. The next stop was Rio which I feel now is the most beautiful harbour in the world, with Sydney 2nd and Vancouver 3rd. Coming in at dawn with the Sugar Loaf and other mountains still half covered with mists and dozens of islands all over the bay, it was a lovely sight. My Mother decided to take a drive once more, so we collected the Nuns and set off to the Sugar Loaf Mountain which has a huge statue of Our Lord on the summit. Looking down from the mountain we were astonished to see literally clouds of the brilliant blue Brazilian butterflies huge in size forming a fluttering carpet of blue.

We drove back via Copacabana with its wavy lined pavements to the city. My Mother wanted to see our shipping company. I had learnt Spanish but not the South American variety and not Portuguese. I tried Spanish whilst we walked in terrific heat for miles until we found the address given us as 'Mala Real', This I thought was Royal Mail Company, though turned out to be a suitcase and leather goods store - 'Mala' being a similar word for mail and trunks or suitcases. We were so hot and tired we went back to the ship.

Our next stop was Montevideo where fortunately we had some Spanish American friends, the Herrera family. This family we met at the top of Vesuvius in Italy first and we were all drooping coins into lava to recover as souvenirs. Senor Herrera was a newspaper owner and Leader of the Opposition in Uruguay's Parliament and remained so all his life, unfortunately never regaining power. He was a charming Spanish aristocrat. They had sadly lost their eldest daughter in childbirth and Senora Herrera took to black clothes for ever afterwards, as was the custom. Senor Herrera was amusing and they all spoke excellent English. He remarked to my Mother, 'Ah! You English, you all say how you love England so much yet you are always abroad travelling'! His second daughter, Hortensia, became a great friend of mine and still is, although we have only met three times since those days (one could never stop Olde Ducke from writing dozens of letters weekly in later life - ed). She was about three years younger than I was. It was lovely to meet them all again and to go driving around Montevideo. We felt a little lost in Buenos Aries where we knew no one, still we appreciated the beautiful city.

On board our ship was a South American family of father and 10 young children, whose wife had died in Europe. Although passengers tried to help him, it was a major project to get them al lined up on deck ready for a meal. They were all dressed in black down to the smallest toddler.

My Mother and I also visited Hong Kong. It was April, a great mistake because of the heat. My Mother suffered with her heart and we had to find a ship and set off for Canada and a cooler climate. It was delightful in British Columbia to see the azaleas and other flowers after the heat of Hong Kong. My Mother had visited Canada in her youth, accompanying two sisters who were very delicate and whom she paid for with her portrait painting. It was about 1890 and I have a Canadian news article on the three Miss Baldry's trip across the Rockies by train - quite an event for three young ladies. I believe her sisters remained in Canada.

During these years I had seen Harry Howden, the naval officer I met in Switzerland, once or twice and he wrote frequently. My Mother was increasingly ill with her heart trouble, but my Father and Aunts liked him. However on one of our travels I met a very good looking boy called Coard Squarey, whose home was in Salisbury. As he was in the P&0 Company office he moved around the world and had been to Australia and the U.S. We were both keen on sports and I doubt if we had many interests in common. However, we became engaged, I think on the rebound on my part from falling very much in love with another Dutchman, Otto Reuchlim. Though as Courd was in their Diplomatic Corps, we parted because, as far as I could see, I would practically never be back in England or see my parents. Coard was to go to the U.S. for the P&O soon after our marriage. I knew it would not work out well and he was too nice a person to have his life messed up by me. He adored children and was very keen to have a family - sadly enough the girl he finally married never had any children.

Our engagement had been broken for some time when my Mother became so ill she was in a nursing home out of London. One night the specialist sent for my Father and I at midnight as she was unconscious and died that night. I had always adored her and it was the saddest night. Her sisters, who took no notice of her in her lifetime, all wrote to me asking for her clothes etc. - it was horrible.

I went for a little car tour in my Sunbeam coupe car my father had given me, for a week in Devon with my friend Kathleen Archer. The car broke down at Fingal Bridge on Dartmoor and we had to 2 days for spare parts. My father sent on a cable to me from Harry Howden asking me to marry him; he was in China with his ship. I asked my Father if I could go out to see him to make sure and he said 'Yes' and suggested Kathleen travel with me. She phoned her Mother who said 'Yes but take your warm underclothes with you'! We returned to London and as I felt I would not be returning home, I packed up everything I had.

My Father had booked to go a voyage to South Africa and my Brother was leaving for New York to marry Winifred, a Canadian nurse he had met some time previously. They were to return to London. We left behind Hilda Lyon who had been my parent's maid for some years and who was to immigrate to Australia after the 2nd War to live in Adelaide, where she is now (d 1988 - ed). Unfortunately she did not know my Mother except when she was ill the final few years. Breakup of our home life was dreadfully sad and I was glad my Father could get to South Africa and see our cousins there. My Brother and I sent radio messages to each other from ship to ship. It was February and Kathleen and I travelled to Montreal from Greenoch in Scotland, a freezing cold voyage with thick fogs off Newfoundland, foghorns blaring and immense seas. We battled to walk on deck and got nicknamed the two 'Miss Walkers'. Finally it was too rough to do anything but lie down and cling on to everything even though we were never seasick. We crossed Canada by rail: I can remember at one stop getting out at Calgary and walking up to the engine to get the smile on my face unfrozen! We got a second ship to Shanghai and had anti typhoid injections on board, which made me very ill.

Harry's ship the HMS Mantis, was up the Yangtze River, so Kathleen and I stayed in the Cathay Hotel in Shanghai built by Sassoon family. Lots of people to dance with, either naval officers or friends and who should turn up but Coard Squarey from the P&0 Company and also Arthur Phillips, another old friend, both bachelors still, Phil from Borneo where he was manager of the North Borneo Trading Company. However, finally the Mantis arrived for a day or two and Harry and I got engaged and it was decided we would Marry in Hankow, as the ship would have a week's leave there. So Kathleen and I set off on a river steamer the four-day trip to Hankow. Harry and I were married the following day (1931) at the British Consulate and a Church of England, with only Kathleen and the Mantis' officers there plus some other naval officers from the flagship HMS Bee, including the Admiral and Captain Kekewicz.

Kathleen flew back to Shanghai. Harry had rented a friend's little bungalow for the weekend and then we went to a small missionary hotel. After four days a cable had been sent from London by Barclays Bank, my Trustees, telling me my Father died at his London Home. Later Hilda Lyon told me he had been eating his dinner and when she entered the room he had died. There was an autopsy and it was a terrible shock, as I would never have left London at that time had I known he was unwell. No one knew. I had only left three months before, when already a woman client of my Father's firm and a niece of Lloyd George's had been telephoning the house whilst I was still home hoping to get him to marry her. She wanted money for political causes I think. It was very fortunate for him that he had not done so, as his health was evidently fragile and to go off on a political campaigning trail would have meant the end for him. She sent me a five page cable asking for money and saying he had left a will in her favour. However Barclays searched everywhere and never found anything at all - so I gave her one of his very valuable antiques as a memento.

The night Harry told me of my Father's death, of course I was extremely upset with shock and being in a strange country. Incredibly he went to a Russian nightclub without me!

The men on the ship were extremely kind. The First Lieutenant Glyn Langley, has been a lifelong friend and godfather to one of our sons (Merlin). First we went up river to Changsha, on a tributary river of the Yangtze.

I had to travel on the Mantis, an unheard of thing in the British Navy for a woman, as no river steamers went up there. The water was so low in summer that the ship ground on the bottom many times and I can't imagine how we arrived. Changsha was a big city. We lived with other foreigners on an island in the middle of the river. The other foreigners included the British Consul, the British American Tobacco Company and reps. of various oil companies. I particularly liked a Mrs.Belbin, the Swedish wife of the B.A.T. rep. She taught me how to do draw and thread work such as the Swedish do on linen and recipes for delicious biscuits and Liver paste.

Daring the day till our husbands got home we were more or less confined to our houses or compounds because of vicious 'Wonk' dogs who snarled and snapped at one's heels if one went out at all. Harry took me across the river and a long walk into the mountains before breakfast one day. Again dogs were a pest. We met very nice German missionaries, a Dr.Eitel and his wife who ran a mission hospital in the city that we visited. But it was a terrible day, as the Chinese were fighting each other, one side Bandits, the other side Chang Kai Shek's men Several had been killed and their heads stuck up on staves high on walls. The incredible noise and dirt, smell and spitting in the narrow streets cannot be described. I gather missionaries get used to but it almost nauseates one.

I felt I had to do something, so I got a very old man to come in and sit for me to draw, until he didn't turn up and I found out his relatives disliked him having a portrait done - they regarded it as against their religion. Luckily I got the daughter of our laundry woman, a 12-year-old girl, to come and I did a watercolour of her. These 2 pictures I still have.

One night everyone was at the Club on the Island and someone gave Harry a pewter mug full of what he thought was gin and tonic. He tossed it straight down. But it was Vodka and something mixed. He became completely drunk, the first time I had ever seen anyone drunk. It was snowing and I had to get him home along a narrow path by the river. At last we arrived, at only so far as far as the sitting room in the rented bungalow as I couldn't drag him further. So I covered him up and it wasn't cold there where he stayed asleep till mid morning! It was a terribly cold winter and we had to seal up every window with sticking plaster and heat even the toilet seat before one could use it. However, spring comes all in a day and the leaves come out and before you know it's terribly hot and summer. The humidity is unbelievable then, with oil stoves in cupboards to dry them.

The river now rose and the ship left and we stopped once to visit a Catholic Mission where their bishop and two brothers had been rescued from bandits by my husband in a boat, so we had real Sherry from Spain and Madeira cake with them. They were very informal and amusing.

I had been very unwell in Changaha, a form of dysentery. Dr.Eitel the Missionary Doctor said I should not remain during the summer in the Yangtze Valley. Thus he arranged for me to go up to Kuling to stay with some Scandinavian Missionaries at their summer cottage whilst the Mantis went on up to Chungking. The Yangtze was in flood, a major disaster with thousands of Chinese drowned and swept away, the harvest useless. Normally they had two harvests a year as it was so fertile there and food was excellent with all the vegetables they grew and ducks, teal and tern wild along the Yangtze. It was fascinating to see the Chinese taking off their padded winter clothing and using just their indigo dyed trousers and either white tops or indigo. They would de-lice themselves and their clothing after the long winter.

At Changsha on the island I had witnessed a dreadful scene. One day a great deal of shouting came from the river bank and a crowd of Chinese were dragging a Chinaman along the rocks bordering the river with chains and hitting him with leather whips. I sent one servant to tell my husband on the ship, but when he came he said he could not interfere with China's own laws of justice. It appeared the man had only stolen a few bits of old clothing - this is probably why there is so little stealing in China.

At Hankow I met a distant cousin of mine who was a missionary nurse there and she took me out to see the vast encampment of refugees from the flooded river. They were in open straw huts, really only a roof of straw and she showed me the only food the missionaries could give them, a small bowl of rice per day. So many of them had tuberculosis and others dysentery. My cousin also developed TB and later had to be sent back to England.

I was put on a river steamer to go down to Nanking and up to Kuling. I was the only white person on board and my next door neighbour at meals was an aged Chinese professor type of learned person. Oddly enough the food was European style with knives and forks and spoons and the poor old gentleman did not know how to manage without chopsticks, so scooped his fried egg with one of his 3 inch long finger nails!

Bandits on the riverbanks fired upon us, though as the river was so wide in floods we were not badly hit, yet it was impossible to have windows or shutters open. The scenery is monotonous except far up the river at Chungking gorges as well as small island rocks with temples on top. At Nanking I was met by the naval officer from the gunboat down there and put into a sedan chair with 4 bearers to go up the mountain as there was no other way. Looking back on it all I really wonder how I survived the various ordeals, coming straight from London speaking no Chinese and often alone travelling. I was really very frightened going up the narrow steep mountain path with a precipice on one side. The bearers had to take rests often and, as is their custom, would shout or laugh at each other. I had no idea what it was about.

Soon we arrived at Kuling, a very pretty village mostly built by missionaries and finally at the Scandinavian's bungalow which was on the highest slope above the township. There was a very friendly Norwegian called Miss Vila Vinsness; a jolly fat Swedish one, the most senior I thought; Miss Schuelberg; a very thin and fanatical Norwegian. Finally a pretty young Swedish one aged about 18 who eventually had to be sent home as she contracted too many illnesses, finally TB - obviously not missionary material, too soft and gentle for the hard life down on the Yangtze. The Catholic Missionaries remained throughout all the terrible hot summers down in the Valley unless they fell ill. I felt much better in the cool atmosphere and commenced painting again. They had a cute little rock swimming pool surrounded by orange lilies and lovely views. Very large hopping sort of spiders about 3" long jumped around the rooms. I sent one back to the Natural History Museum in London.

They sang a great deal, mostly hymns or prayers so I tried to join in. Unfortunately I contracted severe tonsillitis A Chinese surgeon at a Mission Hospital took out my tonsils and I came back in a sedan chair the same day, rather the worse for wear, although the operation was evidently very well done.

A little later my husband came up for a weekend. He told me nearly everyone on the ship had boils and abscesses due to the damp hot climate, and he was concerned about Glyn Langley who seemed to have something wrong with his back. This turned out to be schistosomiasis, a liver worm, from snails, which gets into one's system through one's boots when walking on river flats. He had been shooting duck. Eventually he had to return to England as the disease disables one and the back becomes completely bent over.

Later we went down to very British Singapore for leave, which was delightful. We stayed at a small hotel called 'The Tiny' with a bedroom and sitting room, though it was not safe for me to go out alone. One night we went to a Russian cabaret just before Harry's ship went back up river where I contracted para-typhoid and was in hospital for weeks, as at first they thought it was influenza. I had had a water ice at the cabaret and it was that which gave me the infection. I should have known better, as we always drank distilled water etc. I shared a room with a young New Zealand woman who happened to have known Harry in their youth in Auckland. Her name was 'Karly' Muir also with typhoid. She had been on a Pan Pacific Conference as a secretary, though had to return to New Zealand when she felt stronger. So we were very lucky to have been in the same room and able to have someone to talk to. We remained friends until I learnt of Karly's early death in New Zealand.

In Shanghai we could buy wonderful books from England and the US. With no domestic chores to do I read a great deal. Also the White Russian shops were excellent. They would make frocks to measure.

I went with friends to see the real Chinese quarter where a little island tea house and bridge over the lake, was where the Willow Pattern designs were taken from (coincidentally our 1950s house name in Turramurra, Sydney - ed). It was a terrifically crowded part of the city and extremely noisy with really fearful smells and everyone appeared to spend half their days spitting, usually just behind one's back! The huge Cathay Hotel was owned by the Sassoon banking family and the so-called 'Concessions' were owned by various nationalities: US, British, French, etc. and one really did not get to know any Chinese people unless one was a missionary.

Shortly I was strong enough to go back up-river and met the ship at the port - Nanking I think. Again I could not go out alone. I was the only naval wife up the river. In the afternoons we played tennis and went to the usual Club. Once more I became ill and had no idea what it was, except my back hurt. After about 4 days it was obviously jaundice and I had to go on a river steamer to a Shanghai yet again. My husband departed on his ship to go up river and paid all our servants including the washerwoman.

As darkness fell there was a terrific din in the courtyard and about 80 Chinese men all screaming at each other and shouting. My own servant came running upstairs to my bedroom and told me all the others were relatives and friends of the washerwoman who wanted a large tip. I thought I had better not start giving out money, as everyone would want some. I was really terrified and had only a little white fox terrier belonging to the Company we rented the bungalow from plus a large metal torch, to defend myself. I sat up till dawn with all the screaming and shouting below, having barricaded the door with a chest of drawers. At dawn the Chinese 'Comprador arrived (Manager for the Company) and he got out a huge leather whip to hit everyone in sight thus clearing the courtyard in no time. Moreover he had sent for help from the gunboat that had replaced my husband's ship. Two big British sailors arrived to guard me and take me down to my river steamer. It turned out that my husband had tipped the washerwoman too well and therefore they thought they could get more still for all her relatives and hangers on! I have never been so terrified in my life.

I stayed in hospital in Shanghai until I was well and then it was time for my husband to leave China (1932?). We came to Sydney on a small passenger liner via Brisbane. I had heard a great deal about Sydney from my husband and how he hoped we could find a flat at Rose Bay, which I imagined was a little bay surrounded with roses. When we came in the Heads and I saw thousands of red roofs I was extremely disappointed, although I said nothing. I was astonished at the beautiful light in Australia, quite the most distinct impression in my memory.

We stayed for about a week at 44 Macleay Street, Potts Point, at that time a boarding house. There I chanced to meet an Australian girl called Pat Denyer, whom I first met years before in Switzerland. It turned out she had married an English banker in Penang and that my friend Kathleen Archer had got off her ship to stay with Pat on her way home from Shanghai to England. Getting on the second ship she met Archie Russell from Kuala Lumpur and they were married in England later. Kathleen lived in Malaysia and had a son Tristan who still lives there and runs the family business of silver and tin mines also rubber plantations etc. Archie died of TB and Kathleen returned to England with Tristan aged 16 months. When we were in England for a short time I saw her in a flat at Paddington before she went out to South Africa to attend to more business interests her husband had had. Here she met William Gemmill and finally married him to live in Rhodesia where they had 2 girls and a boy, all now married, the girls living in Rhodesia and David the boy living in England.

My husband had some weeks leave due and we went up to the Blue Mountains. It was August and we were frozen after the heat in China. My Father gave me two hundred pounds for a wedding gift of furniture for a future home and Harry suggested we use it on a voyage to California on the Monterey. Itwas a wonderful ship and we met a family Mr. and Mrs.Hill. He was advertising manager of the Telegraph newspaper and became our friends for years and their daughter Thelma in Sydney asked me to be godmother to her daughter Leilani, who was born in Sydney in wartime, whilst Thelma's husband was in India with the British Indian Army.

In California we visited friends of mine in San Francisco and then took a bus to Los Angeles, stopping off at Carmel on the way before catching our ship home.

At the end of a week my husband had to join his Australian ship Albatross, a Seaplane Tender (this part paid for Hobart - ed). I was left in Australia knowing no one at all except Pat, who went back to Penang and a woman called an Nell Merivale, a former friend of my husband's whom I met only once.

My husband was sent to England to bring out a destroyer (Vampire, see "Service" Record) with several other naval men. I was lucky in that I could see my old Aunts at Parkstone and my cousin in Devonshire. We had a 'service' roomed apartment near Harrod and had a really an enjoyable time. I even met once more the Australian girl who had introduced us to each other in Switzerland. She died of appendicitis soon after having a baby daughter. I also met my old school friend Kitty Spence in London with her husband, though she was always very busy, as they went out a great deal.

I came back to Australia on a cargo ship and my great friend Elaine Hutcheson (he Chief Engineer in charge Vickers Docks Garden Island during WW2, and she later managing Legacy - ed) was also on the same ship. It was arranged that I should stay with Eveline Vance, one or Harry's sisters in New Zealand whilst he was still away from Australia. The ship went to Auckland and by this time I was having our first baby (Patrick, 1934). We had to travel overnight by train to Wellington. On the ship Elaine and I went to the Fancy Dress Dance as a Victorian pair with 'Boater' hats with a long flounced dress for me and 2 bikes made from my golf clubs with shoes for saddles!

In Wellington I was so sad when Elaine had to leave for Sydney. I was left alone with sister-in-laws I did not know. However they were all 6 very kind to me and I liked their families. I spent the time making all the clothes for our baby and we used to all meet over in Wellington going to each other's homes. The old family home unmarried sister Jessie lived in had large sloping gardens, big rooms and a little square box tower room on the roof.

Finally I departed for Sydney not long before my baby was due. Harry had a flat for us in the Astor building in Macquarie Street. I had to find a Doctor and book in at Dilbur Hall. I was fortunate in going to Dr.R.I.Farber. He and his wife became friends over the years.

Soon I found a little flat at Gladswood Gardens Double Bay where I met other naval people, becoming friendly with one called Joan Robinson whose husband was in the RN. He was out here for 2 years. Joan and I played tennis and golf together at Rose Bay Golf Club, besides Bondi surfing near daily. We got badly 'dumped' at times and had no idea what the shark bell was for. We were bathing when a lifesaver told us what he thought of us for not coming out!

In January the 'Albatross' went to Hobart town Tasmania, whilst Joan and I went there on a coastal steamer. Joan was very good at tennis and I discovered ladies could play 'Royal Tennis' at a Club if it was very early before men started to play. So we used to be on the covered court at 6am and play for 2 hours, a game rather like squash with a larger court. In the afternoons we all played golf, a lovely course as one could eat apples, mulberries and mushrooms between holes! We also went for drives to Port Arthur or up country to really enjoy ourselves, except that Joan had started a baby and didn't feel very well.

In Sydney I had become friends with old friends of Harry's, Dusty and Ula Rhodes (he and Harry initial Commanders of Sydney naval base HMAS Penguin - ed), who had a cottage nearby up Ocean Street, Woollahra. They had one child and Ula had her second that year at Dilbur Hall, a small private hospital near by. Joan had her daughter Susan there and by this time I was going to have a baby too. Harry returned and we arranged to rent Eustace Holroyd's Darling Point house. It was really far too big for us despite lovely views. Patrick was born not long afterwards (5/6/34) at 9-1/2 lbs. Soon my eldest sister in law Amy came to stay with us for a while. Harry was sent to Flinders Naval Depot (oct '34) - when Patrick was about 4 months. We had the Commander's house as Harry had been promoted to Commander in China (31 Dec '31). We badly felt the cold again, so we had a little stove put in a verandah upstairs next to our bedroom. The gardens were lovely (still were in mid 1990s when we visited to get photos - ed). There was a sort of cage made of wire screen netting on a frame and just enough room for two to sit inside for afternoon tea. It preserved us from mosquitoes rampant day and night in the T.Tree and mud flats. It was here I became a great friend with Harley and Killie Wright (he into WW2 submarines + brief skipper HMAS Canberra, d late 1990s - ed) also Lois Glover a friend of Harry's in Melbourne, we had a dance for everyone in the house. Supper was kippers and waffles, Harry's choice - sounds odd but was quite nice.

Later I had a miscarriage there and had to go for 2 or 3 days to a Melbourne Hospital. It was just at the news of the Duke of Windsor's abdication I recall.

Later Harry was told he would go to England for the Coronation Service in the Abbey for King George V1. As I was having a second baby (Merlin) we were going to New Zealand to stay at Harry's family home Furneaux Lodge, Endeavour Inlet for 3 weeks (Captain Cooks navy base, this now exquisite resort we visited 1999 - ed). Then I was to go to Wellington for the baby and Harry would come there before shipping to England. I had been down at Endeavour Inlet with Harry; it was a lovely place and Harry had put an unemployed ex-naval petty officer Barker and his wife there to caretake. They had cows and chickens and I 'bought fruit trees, paid for a lot of furniture and also alterations to the house such as a bathroom, water heater and a breakfast room on the roof, plus a new room for the Barkers and their children.

Aline Cathie, Amy Webb, Ada Howden, Jessie and Harry all remained at the Inlet with their children, but I had to go back to Wellington 3 weeks before my second baby was due as the doctor insisted. I stayed in a very lonely hotel, except that Mary Pears, Harry's second sister, called to see me once or twice and was really kind. The night Merlin was born Harry had arrived in the morning from the Inlet saying "I knew I'd be here in time".' We were at a long film, out I had to go to hospital that night. It was terribly overcrowded and I was put on boards over a bath, with one pillow. However Merlin arrived satisfactorily. He couldn't think of a name, so Harry chose that one from a local library 'Idylls of the King!

Harry left for England and I was put on the ferry to return to the Inlet with Merlin with Merlin, who was 3 weeks' old. I worked very hard there, making a garden, even ploughing with a bullock to make beds! Also helped Barker put up a telephone pole. I put on gumboots and stood in the stream for hours getting stones big enough to make crazy paving at the back of the house to keep things dry in winter. I used to row the boat across the Inlet to get our mails or go fishing. I had a Karitane nurse there, as in naval life there is so much entertaining to do one has to have permanent help with children. It grew colder and colder and we became almost housebound, I was exceedingly lonely. None or the in-laws asked us to stay, so finally I rang old family friends of theirs, Holmes family of 3 maiden ladies. Two ran their own school and the other kept house. They told me at once to all pack up and come stay with them till my ship left for England. There Annie, Eva and Breta Holm, of Swedish ancestors. The family owned the Holm Shipping line and had known the Howdens all their lives (we travelled as only2 passengers on Holmburn to New Caledonia, New Hebrides '68 - ed).

They were so kind to us and saw us off on cargo ship for England (1937?). Harry had booked us for it to sail via Cape Horn - thank goodness it finally went via Panama and the East Coast of the U.S. As it had iron decks I was fearful of Patrick slipping into the sea. Merlin used to be out on deck in his pram covered with coal dust from the funnels. We had 2 days in Panama staying in a hotel on shore as heat was terrific in the docks loading cargo. Very pretty in the gardens there though the City was extremely crowded and dirt. Panama Canal is always beautiful and fascinating. Thus even in the intense heat one cannot go inside and possibly miss seeing the lovely scenery and various locks and the Culebra Cut through rock face.

The next place we docked at was Norfolk in Virginia (1937) to coal, thence New York. Here my friend Kitty Spence met the ship and so did the Everest Haights whom I had only met once before. They were friends of my Father's. Kitty first drove us to her flat in New York. I had never seen anything like it. The bathroom had original black ink drawings of street scenes all over it at all angles! Then we went to Sands Point on Long Island where we met her husband of that time and their baby boy Robin who was exactly Merlin's age. All the nurseries had to be burglar proofed because of the likelihood of kidnap of a wealthy child. Several friends wandered in and out 'like a hotel' Kitty called it. Her husband was one of the four Lehman brothers, bankers of New York and had a wonderful art collection. Kitty's 3 daughters, Wendy, Helen and Kaywin, by her first husband, were also there - 3 very pretty little girls who lived in a bungalow in the extensive gardens with their governess. I felt it was not a very happy home, yet concluded that could be because I was unused to such wealth or people who lived with it. But nothing changes Kitty and she was just the same as in our days at Roedean. She had a studio in another little cottage and painted wonderful portraits of the girls. She also wrote poetry and was very gifted and attractive.

I set sail for England once more and Harry had got us one of these odd little 2 rooms per floor houses in Philimore Terrace in London with a tiny garden. He was in Intelligence Division of the Admiralty. We had a delightful Austrian girl Maria, as cook. Unfortunately the Karitane woman for the children never got on with anyone. Moreover Maria had been brainwashed by Hitler to join the "Youth through Joy"' or some such movement, so she left and we had a succession of hopeless domestic helps, which was difficult as I had to entertain.

Merlin was christened at Brompton Parish Church with my godfather present and Glyn Langley also. His other godfather was Stribling Snodgrass, an American friend of Harry's.

One night Harry said we must ask some Russians for dinner. One was Admiral Orloff. His ship was at Portsmouth. When I asked why he had to come on that night Harry said because he's being sent back to Russia and. will be shot! Apparently he had allowed his men ashore in Portsmouth where they had a very good time, though Russians do not like that and he was thus to be killed. It was an awful dinner party knowing what I did.

We became friendly with the Swedish naval people of the name of Boldt-Christmas; in fact all the Scandinavians were charming. We went to one dinner given by, I think, Romanian Ambassador and his wife - a very formal candlelit dinner for about 20 people. I was really perplexed as to what to talk about seated next to a foreigner I had never seen before - still it was an experience.

Unfortunately somehow or other Merlin got septicaemia and it affected the meninges of the brain for which he nearly died and would have but for the fact that the Germans had developed antibiotic pills just recently to eventually cure him after a lumbar puncture. He had been a plump and placid baby and because I breast fed him for 7 months he put up a lot of antibodies which helped. The Karitane nurse was a tremendous help at that time in helping save his life.

We all went for a holiday up to Harry's Aunt and Uncle, Admiral and Mrs.Harry Niblett (my middle name - ed) in North Wales, their daughter Constance is Patrick's Godmother. A lovely old stone house in beautiful gardens, but oh: so cold in winter. Old Uncle Harry was a real 'old salt' and I believe was in a siege of Paris, though when and how I don't know (didn't he fire on own side? - ed). He used to swear like a trooper and thoroughly upset Aunt Ada who was a very well brought up Scottish lady. Unfortunately their only son died of TB soon after. We went about in a pony trap and visited elderly neighbours and people in the village where Merlin got much better.

Harry later was told to visit some of the countries he was working with ie: Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. So we sent the children down to my Aunts at Parkstone who were delighted to see them as they could not do so often, whilst we set off for Prague by train. As we had to change trains at Nuremburg, we had breakfast at the railway buffet. An immense crowd was outside lining the street several deep with the restaurant full of army officers. Presently there was terrific cheering. We asked the army officers what for and they said for the Fuhrer Hitler. So we stood up and saw him drive slowly past in an open army vehicle saluting in his uniform without any shield against possible assassins. At that time he had not attacked Czechoslovakia, nor Poland I think. Had I known what would happen in the following years I could have thrown a bomb at him easily from my seat!

Their Prime Minister Masaryk in Prague had just died and all the shops had his photograph draped in black in their windows; he was much loved. Prague is a fascinating city, some old streets almost medieval, including the street of the alchemists with cobblestones and little bow windows with quaint gables. Everything was very clean and the countryside looked inviting if we had had time to explore it. The people also were very nice, sensible, calm and jolly.

We went from Prague to Budapest, one of the loveliest cities on the Continent. We stayed at a famous hotel overlooking the Danube, the 'Gellert' which had a swimming pool with waves. We went to nightclubs, which were really perfect of their kind for good food, excellent dances and pleasant rooms. We liked the goulash so much and their wines. They are a fun loving gay people by nature and there was an amusement park on an island in the Danube much frequented by everyone. The buildings, State ones included, were magnificent, only problem is that the Danube is not blue!

The hotel was magnificent though dozens of fleas in the beds! The general atmosphere is rather French. We went on by train to Belgrade in Yugoslavia. It was hard to find people speaking English, though everything, hotels and all, were very clean. We went a drive to see the magnificent sculptures at a little distance outside the city done by one sculptor Mestrovic. These were over life size and rather modern for their time. One reached them along a perfect, very wide highway (Autobahn) built, we discovered later, for and by Hitler to his armies in the future.

In the train again to Romania, somehow Harry broke the glass on a table in our compartment and refused to pay for it, despite wildly gesticulating train officials and guards. I have no idea why he did not want to, as he had definitely dropped something on it. I thought we would be hauled off to gaol in Romania! We only stayed about 2 days there as we found both the capital and the people unpleasant. The higher class ones had all been educated in France whilst the others appeared to be more or less gipsies. The architecture was very French. One night we had to meet a naval fellow, at least I presumed so, in a Park and I was supposed to translate for Harry as the man spoke French (I've been trying to ascertain his naval spying activities - ed). As it was all about destroyer specifications and so forth I really could not help much. We returned to Budapest most gratefully and enjoyed further days there having fun in the amusement park and visiting places of interest before returning to England to pick up the children.

We all returned to Australia together on an Orient Liner, not a very interesting trip (nanny was Gagga; this must have been when I fractured my skull on door water-excluder - ed). The boys had meals in the nursery dining room, so I did not see enough of them for my liking, whilst we had meals when they could play. I had sold nearly all my father's antiques, except some porcelain and Persian rugs, in London in order to purchase a house for ourselves in Sydney, so we brought everything we wanted out with us. We rented a large house in Fairfax Avenue, Bellevue Hill, to spend days and days searching for a suitable house to buy. Harry wanted large mansions such as the one at the end of Darling Point that would have been quite impossible for me to run.

Finally, we had 4 or 6 people to dinner, I remember the Farncombs (warship skipper - ed) there and Harry looked out of a window and pointed to an old house at 49 Wolseley Road, Point Piper some distance away and said 'I've bought that one today'.' I had not even seen it, but evidently he was tired of looking! Next day we went to visit and there were two families in two flats below with one man in a basement. Obviously there would have to be loads of alterations and renovations as it was very old.

I think it was at this time that Harry was due for sea. Auntie Alice was seriously ill with cancer in England. So I cabled my Auntie Edith I could come over and put the boys at Silver Waves (stolen generation! - Yuk - ed) nice boarding house for children at Cronulla. I went back by cargo ship to see my aunties who had had a great deal of my upbringing in World War I and of whom I was so fond. My Auntie Alice died soon after I returned to Australia.

The political situation was becoming worse, with Germany very threatening, so much so that I telephoned Harry, who had arrived in Sydney unexpectedly, and told him everyone was sure war would come and should I try for a ship out of Norway as none were available from England. He was astonished that everyone felt so seriously in England, though told me to get out quickly. The only way was in a German plane via Frankfurt and Copenhagen to Oslo, thence a Norwegian cargo ship. People did not fly so much then for long distances.

The plane was black and silver, I remember, with a very poker faced stewardess. On board was a one-legged Englishman with everyone else German and Japanese (spies? - ed)! We ran into a terrible thunder storm with lightning all round the plane which rose and fell hundreds of feet at a time, causing our heads to hit the roof or sides despite straps. I was terrified of the lightning hitting the plane and I expect it was touch and go in reality. I was so frightened I couldn't do anything and was cold as ice, my mouth quite dry with fear. At last we came down in Frankfurt where Stormtroopers took away my and the Englishman's passport to usher us in through a different door to the Japs. That Englishman asked me if I'd like a drink and by then I could just talk again and told him I had been terrified and he said everyone thought I looked quite cool and calm so they didn't like to show fear! We thought we would be kept in Germany with no passports. However, after the plane's engines had started we were taken out on the tarmac by two Stormtroopers and put in the plane before our passports were returned! We were so glad to see Copenhagen and neutrality.

At Oslo I stayed in a missionary hostel two days, waiting for my ship. My dear old missionary friend Vila Vinsness had put me into the hostel and taken me a ride up a funicular railway up a mountain to a lovely feast of wild strawberries and cream in a little tea house at the top. It was the last time I was to see her, sadly enough.

On the cargo ship were several Australians and when we reached Cape Town we all elected to go by train up to Johannesburg then down to Durban to rejoin our ship there (seems like I'd been S.A. before late 1940s - ed). So we saw a little of the country. I wore slacks, I remember and a Boer woman in the Transvaal told me what she thought of me dressed a man! In Durban I was met by some of my friends from years before, specially 'Maggie' Sanders, married and living there. We had a great time before my ship sailed.

Back in Sydney we rented a small flat nearly opposite the house I had bought on Point Piper, so that I could keep an eye on alterations going on and the boys loved Lady Martin's Beach. But War broke out almost immediately. Harry's ship, HMAS Hobart, was off to sea almost the second day. The boys and I went along to a Wolseley Road lookout to see the ship disappearing off to war. I felt terrible with two little boys to care for. Luckily of course we had the house and not nearly as bad as many sailors' wives who had not so much to live on as we had.

They took so long altering and fixing the top flat of the house that finally I moved in, although unfinished. That soon hurried things along.

With the boys at school, I went with Elaine Hutcheson to see if there was anything we could do by volunteering. However, everyone was much younger and without children. So we both worked at the Naval Auxiliary in George Street, near Martin Place. Elaine mostly packed parcels and bales of knitted clothes for the men whilst I learnt the knitting machines at a factory, later teaching on them (many based in our home - ed). Also one day a week I made beds and cleaned rooms at a hostel for overseas officers in Macquarie Street. I had to take my little boys with me there, but we had a good play in the Botanic Gardens, or went to the Museum or Ballet it there was time.

Elaine and I joined a group working for the Naval War Auxiliary making toys for children. These were unobtainable during the war. We got old coffee tins from the U.S. troops and I painted the picture or pattern outsides whilst Elaine did the plain parts. Once I put a Walt Disney design on one. Because we had a little shopfront in Rowe Street, a Walt Disney agent saw the design and told us it was copyright! We made these into sand buckets for children, with Captain Hutch' coming in to mount wire handles which he called 'Handles by Hutcheson'. I made some wastebaskets too and we even had some orders in advance.

I had no car so it was exhausting bringing home all our food up from Double Bay shops to the hill up on Point Piper (actually my job alone most often, via tram or WALKING - ed). One day I found the boys using their trolley cart to make money by saying it was for the Red Cross and that they were pulling parcels up the hill for people! I made them give it to the Red Cross (stinkers - ed).

One day in the City I saw a news poster saying Destroyer sunk' but it wasn't the Hobart. With my friend Elaine Hutcheson I arranged an afternoon tea party for all our ship's wives at Cahills, seating them all at tables marked with the suburbs nearest their homes. They were delighted to meet others they had not known.

Another time I visited all I could, in particular one obviously very poor wife who was up in one room near Centennial Park in bed with a brain fever. I got help for her in that terrible place - only one gas cooking ring and no heating.

I had all our officer's wives to dinner or lunch from time to time and when HMS Ramillies, a huge cruiser, came in and many of us were asked on board, I found that the Admiral Tom Baillie knew Harry. So he came to dinner with me and we used to surfing at Bondi before breakfast. Also dancing with others at Prince's nightly sometimes. He was keen on sketching and used to paint on the beach in front of our house. It was good for relaxation after warfare.

There were many enjoyable nights at Prince's, including one with Hutch and Elaine and many officers of the U.S. Navy, including several of their medical psychiatrists. I asked one of them how they treated their men and he said 'put them into 2 categories - the worst in 1, the next best in 2 and the psychiatrists all in the best class!'

Hutch and Elaine and I went to the Ballet - which somehow was out here - so of course to the Tivoli Theatre to see Mo - or in fact anyone who could make us all laugh.

I used to see Mr. and Mrs.Hill, who also lived on Point Piper and the Dangar family on the hill. Thelma Hill had married and gone to India, though returned to Sydney to have her baby daughter later on. The Hobart was in the Red Sea in a terrible climate for months directing the Somaliland evacuation of Scottish regiments replete with all their mess silver! As the Hobart was to have a 'rest' refit leave (Dec '40) in Ceylon, Harry asked me to fly over. I put the boys at Silver Waves again (wot stolen generation? - ed) and got on a plane. I hated flying so much at that time, I got off the plane in Singapore to change to a ship (before Pearl Harbor - ed).

I had a cabin with a very nice English girl, wife of an English army officer in Hong Kong who said they were still playing polo up there. Arrived in Ceylon to stay at the big hotel on the beach awaiting the ship. Unfortunately the Tropics invariably bring back a form of dysentery; however, I did not stay in bed and friends of Harry's, Hope and Hugh Urquhart, were so kind and hospitable to me. He was manager for P&0 Line there. They had a lovely house where I stayed one weekend. I met Hazel Getting there too, another naval wife. We were the only two who had come over. Her husband was lost with his ship later in the war; her first husband died in a plane crash in the Blue Mountains and she lost her baby. She finally married an elderly American Admiral. They had a daughter and lived in Washington DC. We had a lot of fun together and I helped Hope to cater for and look after various Australian regiments passing through Colombo.

At last the Hobart arrived and we all went up to Djetalawa in the mountains where it was very cool amongst tea estates. We had a small bungalow where I was better in the cool air. We played a lot of golf and the men had a big dance in the local hall. So Conrad started to come upon the scene in Djetalawa. Hope Urguart always called him 'Little Djetalawa' after he was born!

Subsequently Harry got me a berth without passengers on a cargo ship called Westralia in Convoy. She had been captured I forget the original nationality. Only the Captain could speak English and there was a complete blackout all the way to Australia. Food was terrible, especially for a prospective mother! Mostly greasy soup with bread soaked in it, so I ate just the dry bread, albeit luckily never seasick. The Captain was horrified when he heard I was to have a baby - he thought we were mad to go sai1ing around in mid war!

Later we had to leave the Convoy to go off on our own as the ship before us was captured and sunk. We could only go about 12knots anyway because the engineer couldn't get spare parts for the engines. We seemed to just roll slowly along the ocean without a care in the world! The Captain was very kind and had me up to sit in his cabin and read various paper back murder mystery books. The smells at night were awful due to everything being closed down and one could only have one small bed light on.

Ultimately we reached Melbourne having skipped out Perth. I told the Captain I'd pack up my little case and go up to the shipping offices to see if they would refund me the money for the journey to Sydney and I'd go by train. I think he was delighted! It took me ages to get transport from the docks to the shipping offices. until I found a tram. At the offices they just didn't believe I was from the 'Westralia' at first, as they thought she'd been sunk with the other ship in the convoy. They delightedly rushed down to the Docks and got a fellow to take me to the railways with a seat for Sydney, no sleepers of course.

Subsequently I arrived in Sydney and stayed a night in Cronulla to collect the boys before returning to our flat at Point Piper. Harry came back once with the ship and was then off again somewhere. I couldn't book into a hospital, no room anywhere, so I decided to have the baby at home and send the boys up to Jim and Judy Whites farm Belltrees at Scone. Unfortunately Conrad arrived 6 weeks late, so the boys were no doubt a burden for the Whites in wartime although I sent a girl with them. I booked Sister Bel McDonald to look after me. She was mad on horse racing, so another friend of mine, Betty Hard - also having a baby - and I went to the Races despite Conrad being 6 weeks overdue! We had to go in a tram of course so Betty and I came back before the final race because of the crowds. Sister arrived home very tired in her high-heeled shoes, so I put her feet up on the sofa and got her a cup of tea and then told her the baby was arriving. Conrad came next morning weighing 10 lbs.

Conrad was only a baby when Patrick fractured his skull (2nd time - ed) climbing a tree watching a sewer below being dug near home behind Scots College Boat Shed, Point Piper. The Hobart was still at War. I was feeding Conrad when a woman rushed in to say my younger boy Merlin was crying because Patrick was dead from falling out of a tree! As usual I went quite cold all over but very calm, I expect with shock. He was unconscious albeit still alive and our doctor got an ambulance. Elaine came from Rose Bay Golf Club to mind Conrad whilst I went to the Children's Hospital with Patrick. They wouldn't let me stay, so I took two trams back, changing in the City. When I phoned they said he had a fractured skull and was seriously ill. Elaine was marvellous and cared for Conrad for a long while. I went to the hospital where they showed me X-rays of Patrick's skull completely in 2 halves, luckily not a depressed fracture. They wouldn't let me see him more than a minute. I was very upset, as I knew if he regained consciousness he would miss me. On the way home I called in at Dr.R.I.Furber's at the corner of Point Piper and he got a famous-brain surgeon to take the case. Luckily the man was just back from the war, as they felt he could do more good here. Next day he told me I could stay with Patrick all day long if I liked, also to try to get him round to consciousness.

After a week Patrick came around to ask me for his toy tiger named 'Tigger'. He was weeks in hospital and then I took him down to Canberra for a rest holiday at Nell Merivale's farm (best mandarin orchard ever - ed). The Hobart had come back meanwhile, so Harry could be home a good deal (he gallivanting at Lapstone Hotel when I hospitalised! - ed).

When I returned Harry was due for Flinders Naval Depot. Once more we packed up and we now had dear little Ah Yongwith us. Harry had sent me a cable from Batavia saying he was sending a Chinese girl down to me. I had no idea what she was, princess or cook. Hutch kindly went to meet her at the Docks and phoned me to say she was about 19, charming, spoke English and had been a baby's nurse. Ah Yong arrived soon after, full of laughter; a pretty girl with two little turquoise ear rings in her ears. She was enchanted with my children and took charge of Conrad at once. She had been with an English army officer's wife in Singapore and they were evacuated to one of the Japanese islands having to walk through jungles to escape. The foolish Mother threw away the nappies and baby food she was carrying (whilst Ah Yong had the child) so Ah Yong had to try to strain water from streams through a torn piece of clothing for the baby. Arrived at the Sumatera coast, the Hobart rescued them and Harry sent Ah Yong down to me.

Now began an amusing time as several Chinese 'Amahs' had arrived in Sydney and came to visit Ah Yong. We had nicknames for them - there was 'Big Bear' who had a coat like a hearth rug, 'Gold Tooth' with one in the front of her mouth and 'Big Amah', the latter a stirrer who inevitably made trouble. Ah Yong could make her tea ration go twice as far as I could by re-boiling the leaves about 20 times and still achieving tea! I could get a small sack of brown rice for her as all Orientals were allowed this. Sometimes she made delicious Chinese flied lice for us; everything went into it that she could find. On Thursday she and I used to polish all the floors in the house, turning up the carpets and rugs. I can still hear her saying 'Put the polish on - and take the polish off'! She loved going down to Lady Martin's Beach with the children and sat sewing her clothes whilst watching them. I had been completely exhausted before this, having caught influenza and ending up with pneumonia at St. Vincent's Hospital. Harry was home at the time though had not thought I was so ill.

Later he was sent to Flinders Naval Depot again as Captain. Ah Yong came with us where we had the Captain's house, which was immense and very cold, but the garden was nice for children. Patrick went to the Catholic School in the village at a Crib Point (we were welcome there mid 1990 and scored my school records - ed) as Harry did not want him to go to the State School with sailor's children, I don't know why.

Harry got Patrick a pony with one blind eye, he called Nelson, and treated himself to what he called an ex-racehorse, but which turned out to be not very highly bred. He hired an old horse for me and we tried riding over to Somers that is by the sea where several younger naval officers lived. My horse was so old it went to sleep now and then, or fell on its knees as I hadn't the experience to deal with it, hence the last time I rode.' Patrick too had a hopeless pony that shied often and finally threw him across a hedge (I subsequently stuck to Meccano and a sailor-made billycart with wooden wheels that became oblong - ed).

Harry was riding very early in the morning before breakfast and late evening with friends and seemed very restless and excitable. One morning I woke to strange noises and heard him unable to speak and obviously very ill in the bathroom. The door was locked so I called his steward (grossly abused - ed) Edwards, who broke down the door and then lifted him on to his bed and got the doctor, who had him removed to the Depot Hospital before sending for a specialist. I walked down to the Hospital. He knew me though couldn't speak properly and they told me it was some form of stroke (too much self abuse: Coral Sea Battle shellshock, booze, long hours, diet salt + fat, heavy smoking.. - ed). On my way back to the children I met the Irish padre of the Depot who was the only person who was kind to me personally that day. I don't think anyone realised how very ill be was. He was taken to Alfred Hospital in Melbourne (where a special nurse was selected who could take his abusive manner - ed) whilst my kind friends, Commander and Mrs.Wright, moved into our house to supervise Ah Yong and the staff for weeks and weeks. I went to Melbourne by train and arranged to stay as a boarder in Hope and Hugh Urquhart's house there. It was serviced and meals were supplied. I visited the hospital twice a day for weeks until Harry, getting better, said he was going to the Blue Mountains to recuperate, and that I could stay and live in Melbourne with the children. I was very upset, as our life was obviously breaking up and he would not come to recuperate with us.

However, some of his friends arranged for a sale of the horses and I travelled with the children to stay with Nell Merivale outside Canberra on her sheep property along the Murrumbidgee. We remained there a few weeks before returning home to Sydney. Harry had been to the Blue Mountains and was then posted to Balmoral where he lived, sometimes coming to visit us. We entertained anyone over there. (About then we all had a delightful 'pioneering' and boating Tuggerah Lakes holiday where Harry was voted to get a vast forest fire controlled, which he did - ed).

This life was very unsatisfactory for us. Little Ah Yong had been persuaded by 'Big Amah' to go to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory to work with several other Amahs and live in Campbell Street, the Chinese quarter. This Ah Yong liked, as she was well paid and could live in Chinese style amongst all her Chinese friends.

On the advice of Sir George Davis, Conrad's Godfather, I decided to leave for England for a 'trial' separation from marriage. Nothing definite was said, but we had a legal agreement that Harry was to have the house of 4 flats in return for giving me a sum of money, about 4,500. I was to take all my Father's furniture and antiques, yet he kept all the furniture I had bought. This agreement was really unwise, as I discovered Harry hat always done my income tax incorrectly, only stating the income I had sent out here from Barclays Bank (+ rent from un-bombed London property - ed). In order to get a tax clearance to leave Australia I had to pay the full amount owing over several years, which came to all 4,500 for the house.

War had just ended this 1945. We flew to board a cargo ship. Harry went with us as far as that. There were only two passengers of foreign nationality, a man and wife. It was an ex-German Norwegian ship, Tai Ping Yang, with an argentine skipper.

Luckily we had a big cabin to ourselves. Merlin and Conrad got mumps so I caught it by the time we got to Suez. (I broke finger helping in engine room, healed in salt water + sun on advice radioed from Aden doctor whom we saw later - ed). I had it extremely badly and couldn't stay warm in bed as I had the boys to look after. They got on well and were very good. I couldn't get the soft food we all needed but we existed on soup with bread soaked in it. The ship had not been to Europe since the war and no doubt the crew were all longing to be home. They took to drinking heavily with absinth on Christmas day. The Captain, radio operator etc were all completely incapacitated (so by unscrewing banisters for use as clubs we had to force the drunkards - ed) into their bunks the last four days of this Mutiny. We arrived in icy Antwerp, Belgium and had to leave the ship there as it was going to Norway when the river defroze (and officers arrested - ed). We found complete devastation (both in the English Channel with wrecks + mines, also -ed) at Ostend from the air raids. Going up the Scheldt River there were wrecks all around us.

Luckily the 1st Officer had remained perfectly sober and when the Captain was ranting and ravin6> on deck, I became very British and told him to 'shut up and keep quiet'. He returned to his bunk once more. I couldn't get our luggage off as it was under cargo and no-one knew where the Captain had put the 'rnanifest'! I went ashore with the boys and tried to cash Australian Travellers Cheques, which no one would accept as they had not been in touch with Australian Banks since the war. It was January and freezing cold. None of us had warm enough clothes for a European winter. Finally I went to the British Consul who took us to the Red Cross Depot and lent me enough money to get to London. We had to stay two nights at the Red Cross hostel in a devastated area in Ostend, Belgium (now a gorgeous seaside resort when we visited '73 - ed).

Conrad caught a terrific cold as we were frozen in our beds using carpets as blankets (a cuppa cost monumental 10/- ed). But it was nothing compared to refugees living in ruins all around us. A young Polish girl of the Red Cross begged me to take her into England illegally pretending she was a nursemaid. I told her it would be far better to wait and get a legal permit for some country like the U.S. or Australia or South Africa. Her family had all been killed in the war.

We got a cross channel steamer next day (for a wild crossing - ed). My Father's former law partners had booked us into a private hotel in London for two nights. It was a hopeless austere place with bomb holes in the roof and leaking windows. We saw Eustace Holroyd who was horrified, but finally I managed to arrange train for us to Cousin Maud Stephens of Stedcombe Manor, Axmouth, Devon (my first awesome intro to near-complete effortless Self-Sufficiency - ed). Conrad was very ill by now, so Maud had put the boys at the top of the house - where there was no heating. Luckily her partner Miss Leech realised how ill he and moved him down to my room near the fire. The doctor said he had bronchitis. The boys found an abandoned baby rabbit and brought it to their room in a little padded box, though it was too young to live, which was sad as the cold and snow had been too much.

Patrick and Merlin went off to a Stubbington House boarding school in Fareham Hampshire, where I think they were considered little 'hooligans', but they both came top of their forms, although they hated life there as it was much stricter than Australia. (I caught up a school year lost from skull fracture, enjoyed the first Gloucester Meteor jets, initial start into electronics career... - ed).

Maud asked me when I was leaving one day, so I looked around for somewhere to stay in newspaper advertisements - preferably near London where I could take care of business affairs. It was very difficult, as few places were open where children could go. Maud suggested Dartmoor, which would have been extremely lonely. We cabled Harry to see if he would be coming over - he said 'No'. At this time Maud invited my sister-in-law Winifred, my brother's widow and their daughter Judith to stay a week during the boys' holidays. Winifred hardly spoke a word, but Judith was a lively cheery little girl and loved playing in the hay with the boys, hunting with the gamekeeper (who taught Merlin and I to smoke dried paspalum in a pipe that we quit in days - ed) and we used to go to long walks. (Judith eventually inherited the entire Axmouth village which evidently I would have if a year older than Judith! - ed). They never invited us to go to see their home in Exmouth.

Finally I found a private hotel in Woking which would take us so we moved there (more electronics help from a 'ham' + listed giant steam trains through the station - ed). It had a very nice big garden and I managed to get a girl student to mind Conrad if I was away in London. Conrad was never well in England, always had severe hay fever and lost weight. I took him to a child specialist who advised me to get him out of austere (yet boarding house food good - ed) England to a warm climate he was used to. This was a terrible problem but the boys also were not happy at school although doing very well in lessons.

I went up to Australia House who said it would be impossible to get any ship to Australia. So I had a long talk to my own godfather Mr.John Huxtable as he had cousins in South Africa as Harry and I had. John said 'Go out there' and then see. I arranged for the boys to go to Michaelhouse School in Natal as boarders after finishing Prep' School at Cordwallis in Pietermaritzburg.

We flew out of England from Poole Harbour by Sunderland Flyingboat Canopus which was nice, as my Aunties from Parkstone saw us all off. It was a very (8 day I recall and apparently the last such flight of BOAC - ed) interesting flight, but we only had upright ex-paratroopers chairs in an aisle and so it was tiring for me (1st class had unbelievable luxury + lounge + sleeping quarters - ed). I brought a wonderful bag of toys from Woolworths for the boys. Other passengers were amazed at what came out of that bag. We stayed on Sicily the first night and at Shepherd's Hotel Cairo, Egypt, the second, which was lovely right on the Nile. The next day was extremely interesting as we came down to refuel on the Nile miles from anywhere and natives came out of the rushes in canoes and there were huge waterlilies the size of dinner plates on the water. (Wouldn't miss huge tropical breakfasts, skimming the Pyramids and wildlife-riddled rivers, gorgeous naked native women, the Falls... - ed)

We stayed at Port Bell Lake Victoria next night; it was a great effort getting all four of us up and ready each day, but so lovely to be warm once more and in sunlight.

Harry's cousins met us in Durban where we had a night at a hotel before going by train to 'Maitzburg. We were booked at the Queens Hotel. Bobby Locke the golfer who had been on the plane invited me to a nightclub, but I couldn't leave the boys alone even if I had wanted to go.

We arrived in Pietermaritzburg and Uncle Dick and Auntie Marjorie Hathorn met the train - she was a Miss Howden before her marriage - they were both dears and so kind to us. The boys went off to school and on one holiday I had my friend Kathleen Archer's son Tristan for lunch as he was at school there; he was about 12 then. She had married William Gemmill and lived in Southern Rhodesia.

Uncle Dick suggested I should buy a little block of land and build a house on it. I thought that sounded a good idea as Harry, when retired, had many cousins in South Africa (General Smuts Prime Minister - ed) and could have had an easy life with servants and a gardener etc, as he was really not fit enough to do heavy work. I got a piece of land near the University and Uncle Dick suggested I just got loans or used savings to build quite a small bungalow house, which was started despite no replies to my queries Harry.

It grew very hot in summer here and the boys and I longed for the sea, so we went down by train to CapeTown for their summer holidays to a small hotel on a beach (Glencairn, later Lakeside, Muizenburg and we once saw Princess Elizabeth tearing past - ed). I met a very nice family there, Mr. and Mrs.Lang and son Derek. He was a Judge and she a barrister, one of the first in Cape Town, I believe. They had a tragedy later as he was killed in a car crash and Derek severely injured. They remained my friends until she passed on recently.

On leaving Cape Town we went by train to Johannesburg where Patrick wanted to see a gold mine. You were supposed to be at least 18 years old, but I told them we were from Australia and very interested. So he and I went down about 4000ft. I noticed all the black workers doing the hard work and the white ones were engineers. At a higher level there was a sort of school for natives in a cave where they learnt enough English to work in mines. The teacher was black and told me of the poor conditions for their workers. We were shown the native workers' quarters out of the mine - only concrete slabs with wooden bunk beds and a coloured blanket. I thought conditions terrible though apparently they signed on for two years then went back to their tribes, often returning again as they could earn much more than on the poor land they had. Kathleen's husband, William, recruited men for the mines, as far away as the Zambesi.

Back in 'Maitzburg we were still most unhappy with our own situation, not knowing if Harry would ever come over also with the black and white situation in South Africa. I disliked the separated seats in parks and post offices, even Marjorie's servants living in a concrete little block house; although she was very kind to them. Eventually we heard Harry would never be coming over and Uncle Dick told me to sell the half built house, which he did for me at a profit and to go back to meet Harry in Perth to sort out our personal problems.

We got ship Austrius from Durban. I'd had the sense to bring lovely South African stinkwood table, eight chairs, sideboard and writing desk from Johannesburg plus material for curtains, all costing a quarter of the price it would have in Australia (Merlin has all these etc - ed).

Harry met us at Fremantle and took us up hills to Kalamunda to a boarding house Garrawilla. It was like a farm-orchard and very nice for the boys' holidays (boiling hot or freezing cold - ed). He entered them for Guildford Grammar School (after my weeks at Kalamunda Prep school, the town + Museum to which I visited twice in 1990s - ed). Merlin ran away the first term Junior school to Patrick who would walk him back. Harry would not allow Patrick to go to the local State, despite Patrick needing Maths teaching.

Finally he showed us his house on the river at Applecross, Perth and told me I was to live in the back room and to build a room above an unattached garage with a shower in it for the boys. The place was very nice for him, but hopelessly unsuitable for four more of us (false, we adored the plan; some Kalamunda picnics we went on, Harry would annoy Vanda by fast walking way ahead - ed). I got his doctor, Bruce Hunt, to speak to him to point about no room and to ask what he proposed. It was a quite hopeless situation and we were really not wanted, which I had realised by returning from South Africa.

So once again we set sail for Sydney on Asturius (?) after a divorce was begun with Mr.John Dunphy acting for me.

Unfortunately Conrad had caught chicken pox at Kalamunda. We had few friends there except Betty and Bob Krummell (his big radio 'ham' rig inspired me and he was still alive in Melbourne 1990s! - ed). He was the brother of the wife of Auntie Marjorie's son Ian in Pietermaritzburg. They were very kind and have been our friends ever since. (Joe and Jane were other nice friends there - ed). Unluckily I caught chicken pox from Conrad and the Health Authorities in Sydney sent me to the Coast Hospital as the ship came from India and they thought it could be smallpox. Sister McDonald was very kind and had a children's home at Point Piper, which she had wanted Harry to finance and she took the boys in till I was better.

I decided to leave the naval circle for the time being and got us rooms at Cooinoo in Turramurra, a boarding house with a big garden, till I could find a house to buy. Lester Bidduiph managed to get the boys into the Kings School as boarders as I felt I would not try to bring up three boys without men's influence. After a while I found a halt completed house in Wahroonga in Junction Road, on 1 acre of land. It was a 'spec' built place and therefore not well built. I took over the remaining clauses of the building. Unfortunately the builder was dishonest and went off with over two hundred pounds of my payment for timber and never turned up again. I found a lawyer who contacted another builder, a Mr.Hoddinott who was excellent. He had to put in a second floor as the first one was of green unseasoned timber which had spaces the chair castors could fall through.'

Also Conrad and I had to survive a winter with a hole in the roof round the chimney which leaked. I was very lucky to find a landscape gardener called Jack Reeks who laid out half the garden until I could afford the rest. It was like a lake at the back and huge drains had to be put in. So we changed from fowls to ducks and they loved the wet! We called the house Willow Pattern from a tree next door and made lasting friends with the Lamrock family at the corner of the road. Also the Banyard and Thompson families down the road together with Mr. and Mrs.Purdy opposite (who sold us Purdy butter from their cow - ed) plus the McMahons next door.

At last we had a house; we couldn't afford a car, instead I got a cat called Tootsie Pattern or Wootzie for Conrad, a Dachshund dog Tigger for Patrick and a Corgi bitch called Fuschia for Merlin. So we settled in. I used to go round by train to see the boys at school in Parramatta, carrying picnics which we had on the river bank. Patrick had shown an interest in Physics and Electronics in England and had loved the Science Museum in Kensington, thus was oriented that way in his work (made crystal sets to kids @ 2/- in Africa, also fairly sophisticated radios, some mini, shortwave, mantle... - ed). Merlin was more general, undecided and of course younger.

I started Conrad at Wahroonga Prep. School, though doubt if he did any work as he usually threw his lunch and/or hat out of the bus window en route. Finally he also went to Kings to the Junior School (now 1st Parliament House Museum, Parramatta - ed). Merlin had a scholarship and somehow we managed. The boys had bikes and I could get all food delivered in those days or took a bus to the station or shops. In the holidays we readied the dogs for shows and hired a car to drive us there and back - they often did quite well. At one show we met a friend of mine, Margot Harper, showing her Dachshund. Conrad eventually went to the school her son Andrew was at - at Barker College, Hornsby. Some days we used to take a picnic plus the dogs to bush and flat rocks by a stream beyond Boundary Road. The dogs loved the hunting there, although I think there were only lizards.

My parent's former housemaid, Hilda Lyon, decided to emigrate here so I met her at the ship and brought her to us in Wahroonga. However, she preferred a life with a lot of other workers and after a while went to a big guesthouse at Gladswood Gardens, thence to Adelaide at Government House, before the Children's Hospital in Adelaide. I have seen her the last two years down there, where she has a very nice pensioner's unit with a tiny garden.

I often wondered during the ten years at Willow Pattern whether I would ever manage to keep the home going and get the boys educated. I remember aching all over from chopping huge logs of wood into four for our fire and carting 50lb bags of blood and bone manure around the garden. Hilda would always say 'Whatever would your poor Father say'!

We went five years without a holiday and then I decided we must get away so we went to a Narooma boarding house, taking with us Scott Hall, a school friend of Patrick's. My friends Lester and Marion Biddulph, from Canowindra were there and her mother and we all had a lot of fun fishing and swimming. Then came some really lovely holidays, Lord Howe via Sunderland Flying Boat - probably the best of all (I did Heron island too - ed). Followed by Brampton Island with an English friend of my family, Mollie. Conrad caught what we thought was a shark one night on the beach. Then two trips to Korolevu Fiji (my 1st 2 sons had middle names Koro and Levu respect - ed). It was delightfully unspoilt then. Conrad and Merlin had riding and made a raft. One-year we took Patrick's girlfriend Diana Scougal over with us.

Twice we had a short winter holiday at Moree where Conrad and Merlin swam mornings in the hot and really enjoyed it. Patrick had a lot of work to do as he had failed English at Matric - as Kings apparently never hgeard of a Syllabus - so had to re-take it for a year whilst they held his Physics Commonwealth Scholarship up. Luckily I heard of a Dr. Plant who taught English and Patrick had a year with him. Later I also had to take Merlin away from Kings in his final year; he was extremely thin and ill-nourished, getting very tired and unhappy. He worked from home, with Patrick's coach Mr.Miller from Barker for Maths + Science and the same Dr. Plant for English. He passed his Matric and got a Commonwealth Scholarship to Sydney University, as Patrick had done.

I took Patrick (non-drinker) to one cocktail party at Joan and Norman Jones' at Warrawee, a huge old house and a jot of people. Patrick spilt some cocktail and consequently didn't enjoy it at all.

I had also several lunch parties for my friends so that the boys could get used to being with older people when still at school. We had lovely Christmas dinners, our own 'chook' of the year plus a Christmas tree with lots of decorations, often a sago plum pudding.

Once on holidays we went to the City, firstly to get any clothes for school, always shoes, secondly Elaine took us quite often to a matinee cinema. That's when I always took the boys to have a 'feast' of a lunch at some little restaurant Pickwick Club. They loved mushrooms and bacon best. This was our one extravagance, except for riding and tennis lessons for the boys. Whilst in the holidays Conrad and Merlin had golf lessons up at Asquith with the pro' at the public links. They rode their bikes up there and used my clubs, which must have been far too long for Conrad. They had the tennis and dancing lessons at school and were offered music lessons but none of them wanted to learn. (I always hated organised sports and usually managed to escape, though did buy and self-learn Harmonica for my tiny band of 1955 whilst driving old bomb car, then Accordion, finally electric organ in USA 1960 - ed).

From time to time they saw their Father if he was in Sydney. He had Conrad over to stay a Point Piper, but Conrad phoned to ask if he could come home. Also he took Conrad to New Zealand (favoured Conrad squandered all wealth given him - ed) once and sent for him to Perth, which was a disaster as he put him on a plane to return early without telling me and I was phoned from the airport to collect him. Once Harry came up to lunch with us, I think really to see the house, otherwise he lived in Perth although he still owned the house on Point Piper. (I'd cycle there from Turramurra and return past midnight when gorgeous "twin" daughters Celia and Julia of housekeeper mum would 'entertain' me after swims there. - ed)

Patrick finally got his degree in Physics and Maths, but was not allowed to do Honours although I went to Professor Hunter and asked for his help after showing him Patrick's personal theory and inventions work. However he said he never should have been allowed to do all that, but just stuck to his own work (was THAT why she put 100s of my personal theoretical papers out on the veranda to "de-mildew" where nearly all blew away? I'll NEVER EVER forgive that - ed). There followed a miserable time trying to find a job. At last he got into Sydney Uni-based C.S.I.R.O. Solar Physics Electronics as it was nice for him to be earning. He firstly got bikes, a little BSA motorised bike, then a Lambretta motor scooter (really enjoyed fortnightly scooter outings with 50 others - ed). Then an old part-wooden Vauxhall convertible 'bomb', followed by an English '35 Ford (mechanical brakes) and finally, just prior to American immigration in 1958, a '35 Fiat with complete fold back front cuddle seat so he could get around more easily and see his friends and his band, as I had no car.

Meanwhile Merlin worked extremely hard and finally won the University Medal for Chemistry and 1st Class Honours.

Patrick had been very interested in satellites and rockets and we concocted a letter to NASA Head and ex-German V2 head Dr.Wernher Von Braun in the U.S. to whom Patrick had been sending his designs, and who, through many design-commenting replies encouraged him to continue working and studying. I am not quite sure how or why we all came to the idea of going over to the U.S.A. Merlin wanted to get a doctorate. Patrick thought he could get into satellite work (so he had written to President Eisenhower for sponsored migration data to be advised to 1st migrate to Canada thence seek sponsorship on an American visitors visa - ed). As for me it didn't matter where I lived.

Merlin applied for and obtained a scholarship to M.I.T. or Caltech. When I discussed it with Patrick I said I'd have to take all our things and sell the house. He said he would go over too but that he was engaged to 19 year old Frances Keay a Technician also from C.S.I.R.O. She was on holidays at her home in Gunnedah and they would marry and come over. Only Conrad wanted to remain. I think he loved his home and had school friends and hadn't yet finished High School, so it was hard on him.

I bought all new luggage and new clothes for all the boys and put our house up for sale. It did not look very nice as we had always had to repaint it ourselves and it was never a very professional job. Hilda Lyon came over to be with Patrick and help sell the house for three weeks after we left. It did not sell for months (meantime Fran and I used it - ed), even at auction, although I had added a bedroom and the garden was lovely; now the land had been divided between 2 homes.

We got immigration visas in order to be able to work there, though I had to get my friend Kitty to send over details of her income, saying she could support us if necessary, which she did very kindly. Luckily it was never necessary to help. Hutch and Elaine with Killie and Harley Wright cane to the airport to see us off and I cried all the way to Fiji (where we honeymooned 2 weeks at Korolevu again - ed). In Honolulu (after a refuelling stop on equatorial atoll Canton Island as piston Super Constellations had short range - ed) we had a whole day waiting for a plane and were put in a magnificent hotel, a type that we had never entered before. Merlin and I went on a bus tour, but Conrad went swimming in the hotel pool. We finally landed at San Francisco and had a day and night there. I was exhausted after all the packing up, but the boys went down to Disneyland. On reaching Los Angeles Merlin had gone to see Caltech and I remember sitting on a wall opposite waiting for him thinking how nice it was in the warm winter sunshine. We went on to New York via Phoenix, Arizona, Kansas City and New York, to Boston to see MIT (where later I also had been offered employ - ed). At Phoenix Merlin met an American former graduate student from Sydney Uni. He gave us the name of his friend in Boston.

At New York it was snowing hard and I can't think how the pilot got down. We were unable to go on by plane and had to get to Central Station for a train to Boston. We took a taxi that ran out of petrol on the bridge from New Jersey! The man seemed to have no idea what to do and we were frozen in the cab. Finally Merlin walked on to some tollgates and found another taxi to which we transferred. We had missed our train and were so cold we went to get hot coffee at the counter. Merlin had no idea how to tip and the Negro threw Merlin's coin back at him!

Finally arriving in Boston, still snowing with snowploughs clearing the roads, we stayed at a little inn The Brattle Inn, which supplied only beds, no meals at all. It was an old Colonial Place in Cambridge with most erratic heating; either you boiled in your room or the steam radiators went off altogether! We heard o it through a U.S. Professor and his wife who had dinner with us at home Willow Pattern and who were so kind to us when we arrived.

Through the help of MIT people, we were driven round to see flats by their liaison officer; a very nice woman. I rented a 2-bedroom flat at Belmont. I did not know, as it was in a snowstorm and fog, but it was on the road to a garbage tip, practically a district of only Italian families. I slept in what was really a closet off the kitchen, with a large piece of masonry out of the wall with Merlin and Conrad in a central bedroom.

The lounge room was pretty but not well heated; the tiny bathroom was lovely as it had radiators through the floor. Merlin tried for a business course at MIT yet was turned down except for a Doctorate Science. We needed money so he set out to get a job, though there was a hopeless recession with everyone unemployed. Finally he got a job filling fountain pens at an ink factory. Conrad went to Belmont High School across a snowbound park every day.

One Sunday we had a lovely midday lunch and drive out to an old inn with the Professor and his wife. It was beautiful in the snow. On weekends I used to take us out by 'bus' to do our historicals'. First we went to see the old Fiske ancestor village of Chelmsford. Thence to Lexington where we knocked at the door of a lovely old 2 storey white colonial house with green shutters, in which I knew lived one of my distant Fiske family cousins, a Professor Cyrus Fiske, whom I'd found in the phone book. He took us in out of the snow and his wife was charming, the home so beautiful inside with all the braided rugs she had made, wall to wall size even up the stairs.

They told us to come out on Independence Day to see Paul Revere's ride re-enacted. So we came and he put up the U.S. flag of Independence on his porch, whilst we Australians watched. He then drove us to see where the battle took place on a river bridge, where a Surgeon Joseph Fiske had lived at that time (he operated on BOTH sides of the militants! - ed) and finally to watch the three men arrive on horseback re-enacting Paul Revere's Ride from Boston.

We went to the little Museum and were so interested to see more Fiskes, so I ordered copies of the diaries and books left by the Pilgrim Father members of our family when they reached Boston before going out to form little settlements. In one book it says a fellow was paid 10/- a year to keep wolves from the settlement! Another day we had afternoon tea with my Bank Manager and his wife who had evidently been asked to look after us by my Sydney Bank. It was a huge house in a very beautiful part of Boston. We were shown into what was evidently a music room with a gallery with an organ on huge square black and pink floor tiles. Afternoon tea consisted of a scone each and masses of silver: jugs, kettles, teapots and tray. By the time we arrived home we were famished.

Another night we were asked out to dinner which was in a really beautiful home with a little snow-covered floodlit garden. Here on radio we listened to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was a nice scene, but I think the boys liked the imported strawberries best.

Patrick phoned from Canada - they were coming down to see us and stay. We had phoned them after their wedding in Turramurra at St.James Church. After a honeymoon in Fiji they went on to Canada, also in a depression, though got jobs on a farm and they had bought an old Plymouth bomb of a car (for colossal $500 whereas vastly better Californian vehicles = $50 - ed). They arrivedtwo days early, just as I was moving all the furniture around to put my larger bed in the sitting room for them. It was lovely being together again and the first time we had met Fran.

Our plans were drastically altered as Merlin decided to go to Caltech instead of M.I.T. We could none of us stand the cold any longer and Patrick decided to drive across the States too. We had one outing with him to visit friends on Cape Cod, albeit his car broke down pretty often, which was disastrous. Cape Cod was extremely pretty, with every little township in pastel colours - cranberries growing everywhere. We also loved a beautiful house Museum built in Florentine style by an American lady to house her collection of pictures. She had exquisite ones of Giotto and Cimabue and Fra Angelico. Boston was also very interesting including some lovely buildings, also terrible slums. The houses round the Park are cute with what they call amethyst windows - the pale purple coloured glass and leadlight. In the Park were boats like swans and pretty little squirrels running around for crumbs. In spring it looked like England with tiny green leaves and Laburnum's bright yellow flowers, daffodils and tulips.

Conrad and I had been nearly frozen down at the docks getting our furniture off a ship and having it consigned to Los Angeles. We decided to fly across. Although Patrick had offered to take us in his car but we thought it might not arrive (it did well in 12 days - ed).

Some very kind friends of mine Kathleen and John Dighton, offered to lend us their house in Beverley Hills. They were in England, he a playwright. It was a huge place with a small interior garden. Patrick and Fran arrived eventually (Vanda fought bitterly with Fran, evidently over washing up trivia and threw her possessions onto the drive causing Fran to bawl miserably - ed). I set out to find us a house to rent in Pasadena near Los Angeles, whilst Merlin went to sign on at Caltech. At last I found a house and had to take it right away and move and Patrick had found a job and a cottage out at Monrovia. Ours was a 3-bedroom, sitting room and kitchen and laundry in Asbury Drive, Pasadena. Our furniture arrived and we felt a bit more at home in the warm climate, with our own furniture and a little garden. We had exceedingly kind neighbours, an elderly retired couple from Kansas next door. Across the road a Mr. and Mrs.Malcolmson, he a plumber-in-chief at the big Los Angeles hospital. Eva and her husband, a retired Chauffeur from Detroit and her two crazy little Boston terriers plus a kind old man up the road who brought me a red rose the day we moved in as 'just a thought'.

When we got used to the life I sought a job, with no success at first, until I got into a post grad Lab at Caltech washing apparatus with a very nice lady called Lilian. I liked it upstairs, but when we had to do Labs downstairs where they killed white rabbits all day it made me quite sick. I kept up with the work all right and was considered quick. They were very good to workers. We could have time off when we liked provided we made up the time again later. We had to do three weeks without pay at first, but received back pay later. We could have lunch at the 'Greasy Spoon' Cafeteria or bring our own. Lilian and I with Jack, a farmer who cared for the animals downstairs, would have lunch together.

I was very taken with one of the rats I called Penelope. She was brown and white. Lilian and I brought her cheese, apples and goodies from lunch when she used to walk up my arm to warm herself under my collar. We kept moving her cage so that she didn't come up for experiments whilst I was there at least not until Lilian retired a year later. It was tiring work bending over sinks all day as everything had to be washed 15 times - first soap and water, then distilled water and finally baked dry in an oven. But we could sit down for coffee mid-morning and afternoon. It was interesting to see the scientists with their complicated apparatus doing allergies and leukemia. A young Japanese couple was working, both as medical doctors as well as scientists. I asked them if they would remain on, but they said they were on a Japanese Government scholarship and would have to return home. There was a very nice dining room for graduates and their guests and sometimes we took friends for lunch there.

Conrad meanwhile was having a difficult time adjusting to High School, yet he did graduate from High School but couldn't decide what course to follow. Meanwhile Fran had a baby son and one day brought Mark over to me for the day and night. I had no cot so he slept in my bottom drawer! He was a dear little jolly fellow. We went over to dinner with them one night and met two very nice elderly ladies who lived next door as friends of theirs. Fran decided to get a job at Caltech because she liked working.

I had Patrick's (school friend also originally farmed out at Silver Waves, later a missionary - ed) Scott Hall over to stay with us, also Kathleen Gemmill's eldest daughter Mary. They had been on some excursions and I took Mary on some more. I had given up work after 4 months as I just could not run the home properly and a job unless I had done as Americans did and bought everything ready cooked in a Market like just steak and salads. Merlin gave me quite a shock with a new VW car he bought me, which was really lovely for us to get about in. It had a huge red bow on top which I saw sailing past our kitchen window! I got my licence at last and decided to do a Red Cross child care course for 2 months to take odd jobs minding children for mothers who worked. It was especially for grandmothers who wanted to earn a little. However, at Conrad's graduation ceremony at Hollywood Bowl when naturally everyone stood up for the Star Spangled Banner, Merlin and I found ourselves complete foreigners in a foreign land and decided to return home to Australia when he got his Doctorate. I would have to pack up and send the furniture off in advance as ships were few and far between. Also I wanted to give Merlin a tour of Europe on our way home. So we moved to a nice furnished flat near Caltech, fortunately not so hilly for Merlin on his pushbike. Also a flat opposite ours for Conrad as they were all small. Main problem was no laundry, also it was very dirty having been used by Indians who made curry all the time! A dear old American lady lived downstairs with her canary 'Happy' which she let out when she had a rest in the afternoons and he would perch on her glasses when he wanted her to get up and give him his seed in his cage at bed time!

Merlin had crashed the VW (another in Australia later - ed) when papers blew into his face on a freeway, though he was not hurt luckily. After repairs we decided to sell it and get another in Sydney and were very lucky in getting rid of it that week, also selling my old curtains with everything else including even the garbage cans.

Right at the end we moved to a hotel, the Green Hotel, so that I could send off everything but our suitcases for Europe. I had a friend from our Church to lunch with me the day Merlin had his oral exams. I could hardly wait to hear his results and was so relieved when he rang to say he had passed and got his doctorate. Conrad had decided to stay on in California, although I offered him a different trip to Europe. He got a job with Mobil Oil at La Airport I think. Fran had another baby son Kurt, also a third Christopher. She came to the airport to say goodbye to Merlin and I with the baby. They were now living at Malibu beach that was much cooler for them. He had a good job in a big firm Packard Bell of several - they wanted to stay on evidently.

We flew over the North role yet saw nothing until Ireland (Customs guy at LA airport was baffled that Merlin wanted to relinquish his Green Migration Card. "There are better places you know"1 - ed). It was an extremely crowded plane and everyone talked all night, so we were very tired on arrival. We stayed at a little hotel at South Kensington and then hired a car to drive around England until seeing Tom Baillie Groham and his wife in Hampshire. Then my Aunties' old friend in Parkstone, before walking around my cousin's former home Stedcombe Manor in Axemouth, Devon, without calling in to see Judith, who was married by now although from whom I had not heard for years. We also saw Kathleen Gemmill's sister Doreen in Wiltshire, a lovely house and garden. Then drove on to the Cotswolds and across to Suffolk to see the old Fiske 13thC homestead of Studhaugh thence down to Cambridge where Merlin was astonished to see all shut up on a Saturday afternoon - very unlike the U.S.

We had booked two bus tours. The first to Denmark, Norway and Sweden which we thoroughly enjoyed - in particular Norway. Unfortunately my old friend Vila Visness had passed away only a month before. The next tour was Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Italy. What luck to see Nolly in Amsterdam staying two nights with her. She drove us out to Marken and Volendam and to see the Jewish girl Ann Frank's room where their family hid all the war until the Germans found them.

We had such a nice time with Nolly and her daughters and husband Tom. In Switzerland Merlin met his former University friend and drove over the mountains with him. Also in the south of France we met Simone's cousin Manon and her husband Robert in Cannes and they took us to lunch at a lovely little French restaurant over the sea - with fish you could watch swimming in a tank. I had not seen them for years and we talked a great mixture of French/English. Merlin thought he had work to do for Professor Roberts at Caltech, so he really did not see much of London except the Tower plus one lunch at an old Inn in the City. We both got influenza in September and were very glad to get on a ship for Australia in October. Back in Sydney we spent another 9 months at Cooinoo boarding, whilst I looked for a house. Luckily I found a quarter acre at Turramurra in Karuah Road. With Hoddinott's son as builder I put up a three bedroom house, smaller than we wanted but we had to fit in with costs.

At long last Conrad elected to come home so Merlin and I went to the airport to meet him. It was lovely seeing him really back home. He tried several careers, mostly fibreglass, before deciding to get a flat and do Matric for University. He worked very hard and did pass Matric but just couldn't get a vacancy at a University. However, Merlin suggested either Wollongong or Newcastle and he did get into the latter to do psychology plus teachers Dip.Ed. He bought an old house there and we all stayed once.

Meanwhile Merlin first worked at Unilever until deciding to branch out on his own in a little factory making Fine Chemicals, which did not come off as one needs far more capital. He was very lucky to get into a lecturing position at Macquarie University eventually and several times we had up to 75 students to supper and dance at our place besides entertaining three professors from Moscow once for dinner. They took back armfuls of koala bear and boomerang souvenirs.

(1965 after divorce from Fran who had runaway with ancient movie fatcat producer, I shortly returned from California across the Pacific on Schooner Bonny-B, then Cutter Mahina via Hawaii [5.5months], Rotuma, Vanuatu, New Caledonia where saving boat from harbour hurricane hospitalised me with injured foot; finally Brisbane and Sydney where leaky Mahina was sold months later to teenager for mere $900 - ed)

I got Jack Reeks to lay out our garden again, as we had got a local fellow to do it and he had planted all crab grass! We had a gorgeous dog from the Lost Dogs' Home called Jordy, whom we all adored. I was finding the work a bit much and finally decided to go out to Hopetown Church Village at Castle Hill to live in a little flat. Merlin got engaged to Jocelyn Anderson and they were married at St.James Church with the reception at Karuah Road. Conrad and I stayed at the Turramurra Motor Inn overnight. I was very unhappy way out at Castle Hill, miles from all my friends.

One day I was going to the City and drove to the station and when I asked for a return ticket from Pennant Hills to the City, the man said "But you are on Turramurra Station"! The little car had brought me home. I decided to try for a flat in Turramurra and four months later found my present home. Managed to get all but 200 of my purchase money refunded because I had only been at Hopetown for nine months (and they started to build across my country view despite contrary promises - ed). I had good friends there (many whom I'd drive around or paint with; she felt too young for retiring - ed) who gave me a farewell tea and three very pretty little teacups, but I was so thankful to be back.

I decided to take a course in oil painting at Hornsby Tech for three years, as Merlin had given me a box of paints and easel etc. I enrolled there and spent four and a half years thoroughly enjoying myself with 'painting' new friends and going out often on my own during the week.

I was also finding it easier to keep in with my Wahroonga Torchbearer Group now I was closer and joined the flower roster for St.James Church, a new interest for me.

Conrad got his degree at Newcastle (after about 3 times dropping out of final exam! - ed) and only had a few points in Music to get his Dip.Ed., but he wasn't interested in the subject. He came down and stayed with me after selling up his Newcastle cottage before taking a job at the School for the Blind and Deaf as 'House Father'. Eventually he decided to join a firm selling medical books at Artarmon (Kings Cross I think - ed) and after working for them driving around, rented his own rooms in Darlinghurst Road, KC. With a lot of carpentering he altered it to make most attractive.

A girl walked in one day when Conrad visited and he told me they were engaged and she was downstairs. So he brought up Sherry (Sheridan) Andrews. She's a Music etc teacher whose parents live at Lindfield. She and Conrad were married on February 24, 1979. There is to be a baby in July 1980.

I had a heart attack a little while later and Patrick flew out from England to help me. He has a cottage 'Clovelly' in Mount Hawke village (near Redruth, the warmest parts of Britain - ed) in Cornwall. He stayed here a month, also with Merlin and Jocelyn in their new guest cottage. Shortly Patrick and I went up for Christmas with Sherry and Conrad to their mixed farm they bought at Wootton near Bulahdelah up the North Coast. We had a great time (I helped fix their farming stuff - ed). Two friends of theirs, a young couple, were there camping. We had a huge Christmas dinner and I had supplied decorations. The young couple came in to eat the chickens and Christmas Pud. I gave Conrad a pump (overused to cause orchard tree flooding damage - ed), so we put a Christmas ribbon on it down by the dam! (Sherry taught local kids Music etc - ed).

Patrick and I flew home, as he had to Brisbane about his home-published book 'Eco-Logistics' to get it sold. I had re-booked my own holiday once already to fit in with Patrick, but unfortunately he had arrived later than expected and I could not alter it again. So a week before he left I flew to Adelaide. Unfortunately had another heart attack in the street and had to have days in bed in the hotel. Patrick phoned but I told him not to wait on for me, although I would come home within a week, so I missed seeing more of him. Hope he will be back soon. He stayed with his old school friend, Scott Hall, towards the end and we had Scott up to lunch with the boy's New Zealand cousin, Roderick Webb who has settled here.

We have had a good many visits from New Zealand cousins over the past two years: Shona Webb and Lesley Connolly, Lesley with her daughter and son-in-law, also Ian and Mina Pears. Lesley and her daughter are coming again in September.

In passing I should say that my family and I could never be grateful enough to my Father for leaving us comfortably provided for. I have a book H.G.Wells presented to him with a note in H.G.Wells' writing saying 'To the only honest Solicitor I have ever known':

It seems to me appropriate to mention the whereabouts of my family and friends at this time, 1980.

My former husband (had married an old-looking kindly little woman Freda I'd briefly stayed with in N.London - ed) died in London 1969 (whilst longterm ladyfriend Paddy and I were in Istanbul going overland to UK - ed). There is a memorial bronze to him on the wall of the Naval section of the cemetery in Sydney. Merlin (who collected his urned ashes from the Sydney airport - ed) and I organised a Memorial Service in the Garden Island Chapel to which many members of the new Hobart attended.

Our eldest son Patrick's marriage broke up in California and he sailed a 30 ft. yacht over to Sydney, leaving their three sons with their Mother in California, to be adopted later by his former wife's second old husband Thomas. Patrick remained in Australia for some time organising Sydney Uni's Eco-Tech Workshop and Tutoring Physics till 1975, but is at present living very sustainably in Cornwall where he bought a cottage with loads of fruit trees at Mount Hawke and is get his book home-published. He returned out here for a few weeks in 1979-80.

Merlin married Jocelyn Anderson and built a stone house at Cattai, near Windsor. He is a senior lecturer at Macquarie University usually commuting by bike. They have four little girls.

Conrad married Sheridan Andrews and they live near his bookshop. Their first child is due in July this year. They also have the small farm I mentioned near Bulahdelah.

Elaine Hutcheson's husband died some years ago and she lives in one of the Church Units at Woollahra running the roster for the Rosemary Torchbearer Shop in Elizabeth street Sydney. She works there two days a week.

Paddy' Phillips still lives in the house they bought many years ago at Vaucluse. Her husband Ronnie died of multiple sclerosis some years ago and they have a married daughter with grandchildren.

Killie and Harley VJright live at Lindfield and have three little grandsons.

The retired Lamrocks still live in Junction Road, Wahroonga. All their four sons left home - two married.

Of my other friends overseas, Hortensia de Lacalle has an apartment in Montevideo plus a married son and daughter. Kathleen Gemmill still lives in Zimbabwe as it is now called. One daughter married with children lives on the Estate, another nearby and one son in England married, with one in Kuala Lumpur. Kathleen does very clever watercolour painting, mostly in southern France where she has a cottage in a picturesque village where stays for about four months annually.

Kitty Spence had to sell her lovely Estate in Jamaica when her husband died so has a tiny flatette in New York.

Nolly Tierie still has her old home, a big flat in Amsterdam and sees any of my Australian friends who pass through.

Phyllis Colebrook lived in London for years and all through World War 2. Is now retired and lives in a little Hertfordshire flat that she can manage more easily as she is rather crippled with arthritis.

Judith, my brother's daughter, lives in Devonshire, divorced from her market gardener husband and reverted to the name of Fiske. Her two daughters Rebecca and Rachel both married - one a nurse, the other a secretary. Judith is also a nurse (far cry from her Swiss Finishing School - ed) and took a further course in nursing cancer patients for the Devon Nursing Service. They all came out to stay with me some years ago in Sydney.

There is none of the South African cousins left now, only their adult children.

Patrick's three sons in the U.S. have done well and married. Mark, although now separated (2000), is hampered by being deaf from meningitis, was at a University for Deaf (he went seriously downhill for years despite being a Greenie; now at 2000 I have 7 grandkids, yet seen only one - ed). Kurt is at U.C.L.A. in California doing a Marine Engineering degree (now a civil eng repairing earthquaked motorways in Los Angeles - ed). Youngest Christopher graduated from school and is a Senior Specialist Security Sergeant in the Air Force in USAF base Chicksands, Luton, Beds UK (early 1980s I'd arrive by van to stay days in his plush barracks and leave a stock of Eco-Logistics books I was distributing there: now 2000 he's Colorado based - ed).

Recently I joined the U.S.Fiske Family Association to receive their quarterly newsletters. I became interested when in Boston. I only know of one Fiske over here. The family lives in Melbourne.

I enjoyed three lovely holidays on the big island of Hawaii, staying at the Kona Sunset Hotel, a cute little place with excellent food, home cooking by the family. An American friend I made in Alice Springs called Beatrice Greenwell told me about it. She owns the gorgeous Kealakekua Ranch at Captain Cook. Her son, daughter and grand daughter also live on the Ranch. Phyllis Colebrook and I went to lunch at her beautiful home with its wonderful views reaching from the cave where Captain Cook died to the top of the mountain where they have a log cabin and can grow English cold weather shrubs such as rhododendrons. Beatrice has about twelve little pug dogs plus a collection of china or silver model pugs from all over the world.

Coley met me in Kailua Kona after flying from England and we had a lovely holiday. The second time we went to stay at Maui where it poured, so we returned to Kona. The third time I took Conrad over for a holiday when he took his bike to could get around. We hired a car and had some beaut drives. We had travelled with friends Gwen and Reg Buckland. Again we went up to Beatrice Greenwell's home. She was more frail and is now bedridden I heard.

Since then I have not been able to go so far and have only been to Adelaide twice, mostly to see Hilda Lyon.

Glyn Langley lives in London, but Gladdie his wife died this year (both died suffering Alzheimer's - ed).

I was very fortunate in getting a flat in Turramurra with a courtyard garden in a quiet cul-de-sac opposite St.James Church.

NOW 2000: Patrick lives very Sustainably on Macleay Island, Brisbane since 1985. Conrad and Sherry separated with kids in Port Macquarie. Vanda had stayed for years in mobile homes with Merlin then Conrad before retiring to a Turramurra Oldies Home. END

MY MARRIAGE IN CHINA by Mrs.Vanda Howden

From: "I Remember When", produced by Senior Citizens Week Committee

of Hastings Municipal Council, March '93

Edited & Compiled by Dr. Patrick ffyske Howden, Cone St, Macleay Island, 4184, Australia. Ph/Fax: (07) 34095100.

 

 

My school friend was given permission by her mother to accompany me to China for my wedding provided she took her 'warm undies' with her. Leaving England we spent a few days in Shanghai then went up the Yangtze River to Hangkow where my fiance's gunboat HMS Mantis was stationed.

The ceremony was unique with thirty naval officers, my friend and I, yet no music when walking down the aisle, so we did it at a fast canter. A weekend honeymoon was at a borrowed bungalow. We then proceeded to Changsha, the tributary of Yangtze. Because of bandits, I was allowed to travel on the ship (unheard of in the British Navy!), which scraped the river bottom river in places. The 1st Officer fortified me with glasses of sherry whenever there was a disconcerting bang.

Europeans live on an island in the River center, a huge Chinese City on our left bank. We always rented bungalows and in the icy cold my husband had to put sticking plaster around all windows to seal us in for the winter. We had upright oil stoves to warm toilet seats before use!

The only amusement was the Club and sports. I was lucky to find an aged Chinese who sat for a pencil portrait. However his family decided they did not want him to come again. So I found a delightful little girl the 12-year-old daughter of a laundry woman, red cheeked and with a black pony tail tied with red ribbon.

 

For the first and only time, I found my husband drunk having been asked to drink a pewter mug, which he thought held beer, without stopping - it held Vodka! I did my best to walk him along the riverbank snowy path, albeit had to leave him to sleep it off in our sitting room.

We visited the German Missionaries in Changsha and found delightful ceramics on the way, a gorgeous blue vase and a tea set painted gold with a thousand-flower pattern on it. We thought then that $1 was very expensive!

Spring comes all in a week in China and the men were playing cricket in shorts whilst the Chinese were squatting on the river banks washing their padded winter clothes, almost all in indigo colours as German dyes for clothes were expensive.

I travelled on a Japanese River Steamer to Kukiang, the only woman or white person on board; the ship blacked out because of bandits. At my table was a very learned Chinese, with a long white beard and 3" long finger nails with which, lacking chopsticks, he scooped up eggs and bacon.

Each time my husband's ship arrived we had a wonderful reunion until they had to leave, when I was left for a night with a foxterrier plus my large torch for defence.

Suddenly, there was a commotion in the yard, hundreds of Chinese shouting and our houseboy rushed up to tell me he had sent for help to the comprador, who finally arrived with 4 British sailors. We lashed everyone with a kind of stock whip until they melted away. I was told my husband had paid the washerwoman too much so that they all came to see what they could get! END

VANDA'S EULOGY

Our mother was born in London, 1904, to William and Grace Fiske of very long lineage. Her early home years were spent opposite Hyde Park with nearby Albert Hall providing many concerts. From 4 years old she entered her brother's boarding school, but spent most school life at Rodean near Brighton. Clearly enjoying school, she excelled in sport. Often she spoke of her WW1 wartime experiences, with little to eat at school. During holidays, she helped her artist mum (from bohemian stock) feed troops on manoeuvres outside London, and as a budding artist, would quick-sketch, for later painting, German zeppelin bombers that were being shot down in flames.

On completing school, Vanda, or the "Olde Duck" as she became affectionately known in later years, attended art and music school, became a trained expert at stripping down her Sunbeam roadster and clearly had a lively social life during the 20's, briefly flirting a Continental Count. Later that decade, she met a dashing New Zealand naval officer, Harry Howden who had earlier served on the British HMS Benbow through WW1, though then on a China posting as skipper of HMS Mantis to rescue missionaries, cut off opium running and preserve peace during years of Gunboat Diplomacy. After years of courting, Vanda, accompanied by a school friend, took a fast ship to China and married Harry at Hankow on the Yangtze river in 1930. Though she spent hot summers in the mountains with Swedish missionaries and later based on a river island near Changsha - not without some considerable disquiet at times, having on several occasions got caught in Chang Kai Chek's army crossfire - she nevertheless occasionally joined Harry as he patrolled the river, quite remarkable for a British warship!

In 1932 she and Harry came to Australia to set up home in Point Piper on Sydney harbor and to have their first son Patrick in 1934. Then Merlin was born, 1937, in Wellington, New Zealand when Vanda and Harry visited Harry's family holiday home in the heritage Endeavour Inlet, Marlborough Sound, Captain Cook's Main Pacific Base, now Furneaux Resort Lodge over which she had considerable design influence in improving spartan comforts. Shortly later the family left for London to attend the Coronation of King George V1.

Visiting Europe, both were involved in espionage for British Naval Intellegence, meeting clandestine agents covertly in such as Romanian parks where Vanda's immediate vital function was helping Harry with her fluent French translation concerning 'enemy' destroyer ship details. The couple encountered Hitler at several grand marches. Swearing she would have caused him damage if she'd only known the future, Vanda escaped Europe by a storm-tossed North Sea Nazi plane containing several suspicious Japanese officials - just in time. Shortly later she took a Norwegian freighter home.

War broke out after the family's return to Australia and Vanda was left to raise the boys; whilst Harry was away as Captain of HMAS Hobart knocking it out of Germans and Italians. However foreign war effort for his wife didn't end there, because Harry called her to Ceylon, reportedly for R&R, Dec 1940. Pre-Pearl flights were at best precarious, so she shipped from Singapore to Colombo. But visiting Aussie regiments desperately needed her loving care and nursing, which negated all hope of mountain relaxation. Delayed, pregnant and without passengers for company, she returned home alone by solo lights-off ship, thought by many to have been torpedoed....

Conrad was born in 1941 and Vanda was fully involved with her young family, between bouts of dedication to the war effort and to supporting other officer's wive's wartime charities. Meantime Harry was to make his marks in history on one of only 2 Australian Coral Sea battle wagons. With his shrewd survival skills, HMAS Hobart was never in trouble, even under fiercest attack.

At war's end to entice Anglophile severely ill Harry into retirement, Vanda decided to return to England in 1946 alone with the boys on another tiny Norwegian freighter, regrettably manned by a mutinous crew through dangerous mine and wreck-infested waters. In Hampshire, the two eldest attended school for a year before all four moved to South Africa escaping British cold and unaccustomed austerity, and to establish home near a Pietermaritzburg school. They had enjoyed the last BOAC Sunderland flying boat "Canopus" 8 day trip from England to Durban, flying memorably low over the pyramids and touching down nightly on the nearest lake or vast African river.

However, Harry never appeared. Political uprisings and perennial diseases soon motivated a return to Australia, first via Perth where Harry had become Head of Western Australian Navy and where a divorce was obtained in 1948; thence on to settling in a big-garden Wahroonga home north of Sydney for many years during family schooling and university. Patrick worked 2 years at CSIRO Solar Physics before marrying and heading for USA via freezing Canada, 1958.

Independently, Vanda Plus the remaining boys in the same year migrated to California where Conrad completed more school, Merlin his Doctorate. At one time Vanda, Merlin and Patrick's wife each worked at Caltech, Los Angeles. In early 1960's all but Patrick returned to build yet another Australian house in Turramurra, Sydney. Patrick enjoyed years of Aerospace/Computer research to finally return on his own schooner via Hawaii, 1965 - after a lot of Olde Duck persuasion and help for his severe injuries suffered during a Noumea harbor hurricane.

Wherever Vanda had travelled extensively or lived she always made many friends & was renown for keeping in touch with large numbers of these people through her life. At Christmas, her home was full of international cards, as well as many from the HMAS Hobart Association, Legacy and the Church, all of which she strongly supported for decades with fund raising. She was particularly interested in documenting her own Fiske family history that stretches back centuries. Continuous contact was maintained with visits and letters from American, English and Australian cousins - however remote the relationship - most becoming close friends.

Vanda always kept up her painting that she began as a young girl in London. Her works encompassed wonderful portraits and landscapes in several media and styles, especially pointillism. Exhibiting locally, including the Royal Easter and the Hawkesbury Shows, she sold well and won many prizes. Later in life, she frequently learnt further perfection at Art school, whilst tutoring beginners and encouraging the proficient. Most paintings not sold or given away reside on home walls of "The Brethren", as her sons call themselves.

Vanda turned her artistic talents to good use, painting what seemed endless T-shirts, embroidered cushions and tapestry wall hangings for charity. Curiously, after years of avidly following Davis Cup tennis, Test cricket and Olympic games, frequently all night on TV, the Olde Duck continued a lifelong interest in such scientific marvels as space travel, historical nuclear research, environmental progress and wildlife preservation; with a final perceptive enthusiasm for Astronomy.

Vanda spent a great part of her life interacting with her 3 sons and their families, her grand children, plus her 5 American great grand children, helping them and many folk in difficulty with unfailing generosity and encouragement. By the1970s Vanda entered Mowell retirement Village; only to depart after a few months realizing that she was far too 'young' to be institutionalised, preferring caravan life for many years alternating on the younger son's properties near Windsor and later at Port Macquarie; before finally entering a comfortable, relatively active life at the Princess Juliana Lodge, Turramurra, 1993.

Sharp as a razor, wise to the end and having seen the world grow up surrounded by life's marvels, mysteries and miracles, she died peacefully from battling a heart attack, 13 August, 1994 aged 90, sadly missed by all who knew her - with the fervent hope that her spirit caught the recent Australian Commonwealth Games victories.....

VALE VANDA. 

END.

 
 

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