Shivering to death in Albany

We lived in our 30 ft caravan for 4 years. Dad made a solid door for the annex for security and put a small shed in the middle of the annex. In this we had a porta pottie, a godsend in winter I can tell you, and a dryer. This was after two years mind. Until then I would have to sit in the laundry and do my homework while making sure no one A: took out our clothes and put theirs in using our money or B: took our clothes! It was worse during the holidays too. People do the most amazing things while on holiday. I learnt to pick the lock on the dryer box. Sometimes it would be pouring with rain, so instead of having to trudge back to the van for more coins, I learnt to pick the lock with a hairpin. It was a wonderful day when the dryer was purchased and put into the shed. I had the middle room in the caravan. My brother’s room was at the end. Instead of walking to the end of the annex and accessing his room through the door there he would just walk through mine. At first it didn’t matter, but as I grew older and more sensitive about my body, you know what I mean girls, I hated it! The arguments we would have over him just strolling through my room. When we did move into a house it was so nice to have a room that wasn’t a pass through for my brother.

We lived a free and easy life in the caravan park. Apart from the usual list of chores after school and having to be home by a certain time, we had plenty of time explore. The bush on the way to the beach was full of wonderful hidey holes and was criss crossed with lots of little tracks. We had a ball in that bush. I remember we found a nest of new born baby kittens. Their eyes were closed but they still hissed at us when we patted them. Not sure where mum cat was, but in hindsight it was probably just as well. I vividly remember being attacked by an over zealous seagull. I was walking along the beach and could see a large dead fish on the beach in the distance, with a swarm of noisy birds overhead. One of the seagulls decided that I must have been a threat and decided to swoop me, even when I took cover in the bushes. I had to crawl a long way to get away from that crazy bird.

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Albany is a beautiful spot on the south coast of Western Australia. It juts out into three bodies of water of water on one side, King George Sound, Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour, and the Great Australian Bight on the other. The main street in Albany is called York Street and it faces the Princess Royal Harbour. The wind blows up that street and can chill you to the bone. It is called the Albany Doctor by  locals. I was always cold in Albany. I had come from living up north in 40 degrees plus temperature and I think my blood must have been very thin. While everyone walked about in shorts and t shirts I had jeans and a jumper on.

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My first job in Albany was an after school job down at Emu Point. I worked in the Emu Point Tearooms and Shop. One part was a shop that sold icecreams, drinks and take away food and the other section was a proper sit down restaurant area. The lady who owned it, Mrs Mays, was jewish and made sure we didn’t over use anything. She would make beef and vege soup on a Monday, it would turn into pumpkin soup about Wednesday and then became Pea and Ham by Saturday. My big tip was, buy soup on a Monday lol. On a trip to Albany with my husband we went to have a look at the tearooms. It is now two businesses. One is still a shop and the other is now a Japanese restaurant. Mrs Mays would be rolling in her grave! It is a beautiful spot to sit for a bite to eat, with views over the water.

I learnt to swim in Albany at Emu Point. The “pool” is a wooden structure like a jetty in a square u shape. The mouth of the u faced the beach. The water was always cold and sometimes choppy. Did I mention it was cold??? It is still there but the children of Albany can now learn to swim in the nice warm indoor pool they built close to town.

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Because I moved around each year I never had a friendship group. The great thing about Albany is I stayed there for all of my high school years. I formed friends with a great bunch of people. We were a group of independent thinkers, and I liked that about them. We were not the “in” crowd at all, but I think that was okay as we didn’t follow along like lame sheep. Didn’t get the cool guys either but hey their all fat and bald now so who cares :). I am still in touch with three of my school friends to this day.

One boy I made friends with was Brian. He was English and had moved to Albany with his mum, step dad and brother. His step dad didn’t like him very much and would abuse him verbally and sometimes physically. Brian was a sweet boy and very clever, he got A’s for everything. By the time he was in year 11 he was living on the streets. I tried to help him but at such a young age I couldn’t do much, and eventually we lost touch. I didn’t go to our school reunion but a girlfriend did. When she told me that Brian had died at nineteen I was devastated. It still upsets me to this day to think of the loss of that sweet hearted boy.

When you look back on your life you start to see the links that have led you to where you end up. I think Brian was a link in my chain of life. I work with special needs children and love it. I like to think that I give them a voice to show people what they can do and not what they can’t. I think about the home lives some children have and if they need someone to talk to I try to be there for them. I want them to come to school and know it is a safe place to go. In some way I hope that it will stop one of them ending up like Brian.