Apollo Bay

Bob Knowles 55/365


I have Facebook friends waiting to get blogged, but their breath isn’t bated. I hadn’t anticipated the demise of the landline to be this sudden. Catching a friend in their home at the end of a landline is rare.

I saw Bob at a local event. It was on the same day that an article I’d written about the bushfires was published. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatlife/12080588/The-Great-Ocean-Road-bushfire-made-me-so-proud-of-our-local-heroes.html)

He said he’d read it and would really like to see something by me that didn’t have me in it. Well, I could give him my novels for middle grade kids but he needs something more cerebral so I said ‘I’m blogging you next.’ And now I am all too aware of references to myself and speaking in the first person!

We agreed to meet at his house. When I arrived his bass voice called out over the valley and I waited, watching the birds fly round the Otways and the ocean. Then over coffee, unbelieveably good coffee, and surrounded by peaches, we talked.

I wouldn’t be sitting in Bob’s house looking at his strong, handsome face if I wasn’t writing about my Facebook friends. We know each other because we look at each other’s posts and I follow his interviews on local radio with interest. I mention that this blog is really all about what people mean to me, the phone call and the loss of the landline. Yes it hones my writing skills but it begs the question, how well are we all connecting now that it is done through a screen? How exciting is a phone call or a face to face visit now that the human voice is no longer received down the wire on a chunky phone? The phone in his pocket rang three times during our chat. He still gets a lot of calls from his wife and three daughters but he has no landline.

Bob says that on the old phone you would have a tea and a fag and you’d be listening. (Do you remember the smell of the receiver in smoker’s houses?) He says that we are evolving into a different way of connecting, and  as well as keeping us all in touch, it is the perfect distraction. “You think it’s something to do but it’s not productive at all. We are processing the information differently through email, text and Facebook. It means we are getting more information but less understanding.”

And here I am, giving you more digital information on Bob Knowles and my connection. He is a voiceover artist and he recently made an ad for chocolate that is on the TV a lot! At the sailing club his voice hits the water before he does, so deep it is. He has a programme on our community radio station and this week he interviewed the mayor.


I was his second interviewee on his first programme (here I go again at 24 mins!)


We met when he needed a soprano voice for a song on an ad, so he got on to Facebook and posted on the Community Page ‘I really need to get in contact with Annabel Tellis a.s.a.p’ and I responded saying ‘Shhh Bob, or everyone will know!’ Sadly, it didn’t start a rumour.


Bob in his garden. (Above, Bob on the Mic and above that Pete Goodlet’s Otway art, with kind permission from the Cannon family).




David Freedom Rose 52/365

I didn’t realise how quickly the home phone would be disappearing as I documented my friends. It has been alarming to find that so many friends would now be off limits to me, down the blower, if I wasn’t doing this blog. I remember a time when the phone was new, quite a luxury and many were too shy or embarrassed to use it. They are no longer a luxury but we’re shy again!

I am not one bit embarrassed to be phoning ‘man in a million’, David Freedom Rose. He isn’t at home so I try the mobile. He is racing through South Australia to get to my call, so I tell him to slow down and I’ll call him on the landline in half an hour.

I feel as if only I could ever have a friend called ‘David Freedom Rose.’ But no, to date, 325 people have and they’re only the ones on Facebook!

Here’s the story. It is short, sweet and from the recent, lightly painted past.

David stepped out of his converted ambulance on the beach and into my life one spring morning two years ago. He stretched and smiled at me and my dog. I thought he was a construction worker with his big high-vis jacket and deckchair. He was an artist, of course, an artist in residence in the world.

The dog and I invited him over for coffee and cake later and he went back to the ambulance afterwards with a bowl of risotto. After that he came round for many afternoons to sit in the armchair and laugh at me, with me. He was like my own personal fully qualified gypsy comedian, his face alight with good advice borne over years of adversity and joy.

Then one day he suddenly left town. He banged on the front door at 7a.m. to tell me he was in love and leaving. I handed him our three week old kitten in a birdcage, with milk and a dropper. We wrestled the wild kitten out together and wrapped it in a towel to calm its hissy fit and David preached to me about the kitten’s rights and how this incarceration in the bird cage was cruel. The kitten quietly nodded her head at everything he said. With David, it’s all about the freedom.

Our whole phone conversation was a grand catch up. David has had many breakthroughs since we last spoke. He isn’t anxious or smoking. Was he? Did he? I didn’t realise at the time, I just thought he was mercurial. We talked at length about family and the bigger picture. We bring out each other’s English accents, he from Doncaster until the age of ten, my midland flat vowel sounds occasionally being heard to twang now. I was pleased to tell him that we ditched the bird cage when he left.

On reflection, this very conversation was one that I have dreaded having. With social media and the illusion that we are in touch, David and I will continue to watch each other live and comment. But unless we organise to go out of our ways and cross paths on purpose, like so many people that I have yet to ring, David and I might never speak again.

Maybe that’s the reason it has taken me so long to write up this post and why I am finding this blog to be a wrench at times, it is so hard to say goodbye.


PS. I had forgotten the name of David’s ambulance so called him just this minute, it’s called Vicky Vardo. We have arranged to cross paths at Christmas. Reader, ring your friend, don’t be shy, is it harder to say hello than goodbye?

Merri Hagan 50/365

Merri arrived in town relatively recently. And its a good job she did because we needed someone to sprinkle a bit of magic dust over us all.

She’s the one person I know who really looks like a Disney princess. She doesn’t mean to, she was born like it. So if she is wearing her wetsuit, or her pajamas, her track suit or her ugg boots, she still looks like she has been drawn and little stars are twinking round her  face.

merri paddle

I went round to her house for a coffee and a blog chat. Sometimes, when I’m ringing people whom I haven’t spoken to in a long time (and soon I will speak to people I haven’t spoken to ever before) I feel like I’m all at sea in a massive boat of words, clinging as it rolls to the capital ‘I’. Forgetting the phone altogether and gathering with one geographically close person round coffee, talking all things bloggy, is a welcome harbour in a rough sea of  emotions. Sorry if I am breaking the blog laws, blog god Adrian (1/365)

The main probem with nipping round to Merri’s was that we chatted away about friends and family and children and life and when we were coming to the end of our second cups, I realised that I didn’t have anything to write about and we couldn’t exactly begin all over again. She said ‘Oh just make it up’ and I wrote these notes…

‘Apollo Bay’s answer to Grace Kelly, taps into quantum physics, main manifester, Nespresso, hopes and dreams, Cirque du Soleil, always destined to marry an American, thoughts create your reality, Cate.’

It was the last word that was undoubtedly the reason why she and I rabitted on about nothing tangible for two hours. It was out of a sense of relief. The night before, we had both had little or no sleep, as had few people in our town because Cate’s (30/365) 18 year old daughter and her friend were missing in Nepal in the eathquake zone. At 3am my husband had woken me to say that an ABC journalist had phoned Cate and the girls were injured but safe. The air that night had been so heavy with prayers.

Looking again at the list I made, let me see-

Grace Kelly/Disney princess, same same.

Quantum physics. Merri and I both have a fascination with the notion that your thoughts have power. She can reel of a long list of great things that she has manifested and I brought to the table the fact that I asked my (departed) Dad for a powerful stereo (he was always so good at chosing that sort of thing) and there it was (for free) on the nature strip of the house opposite, three days later, speakers, 5 cd holder, everything! Yes it is permanently on random, but isn’t everything!

So that has dealt with the ‘main manifester’ note, the Nespresso speaks for itself, hopes and dreams all look like coming to fruition, and that brings us to Cirque du Soleil.

merri masks merri caravan

Merri had a very interesting career working for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vagas. I don’t think I need to add to that because you can just imagine how good that would be!

And as a bonus, she also met her lovely American partner at the office, and he wins the prize for most romantic husband ever. Here they are on top of the big top.

merri tent

She tells me all the little things he does, like the flowers he arranges to be delivered (no he doesn’t arrange them!) to the surprise hotel he booked for a romantic weekend together away from the children. It gets worse, he also buys her chocolates and gifts and takes her to choose boots and restaurants and champagne, he leaves little notes and trails to pretty things for her and she must feel like she is in some sort of movie.

But for a girl from Victoria who is a strong believer in your thoughts creating your reality and who needed to manifest a romantic lead prince to go with her sparkle and who had an American flag in her bedroom because she had hopes and dreams… well, it looks as if they are all coming true!

merri and dan merri flag

Rene Knaap 48/365

Rene 2

Rene and I have spoken quite a lot on the phone recently, the real phone, you know, the plugged in one. It feels a bit like going back in time because when we were small we seemed to be phoning the local Anglican priest a lot; church was at the centre of the village and the centre of our lives in the 1970’s.

My playground was the graveyard that surrounded the church until swings arrived in about 1976. Having the gravedigger as a close personal childhood friend and swinging my legs in the hole as he sank deeper and deeper into the earth is one of my most precious childhood memories. Later, when he had gone, we would have competitions with friends to see who could jump over the hole- lengthways! It was fine with some of the little old ladies, but Sid Sumner, never. The invention of plastic tarpaulin ended that great game. And I stopped going to church regularly in my twenties.

Rene and I met in real life in a cafe because I had asked him to be a referee for me. I sometimes wish someone would come along and blow a whistle and instruct me to sit on the bench but Rene would never be that kind of referee.

We had chatted for about an hour and a half when I told him how hard it is catching people on the landline now and then I announced that I was going to take his photo and turn this chat into a blog post. I’m not sure if that is breaking the rules or not but with the next page 49/365 being dedicated to my lovely French nanny/friend whom I haven’t spoken to in 15 years, I could do with a quiet number 48.

I then begin taking notes which Rene looks unsure about. I try to make it look less like a dictation by writing just the odd word (illegibly) and the focus of our conversation turns towards the phone. Rene tells me what he thinks about the modern use of the phone, ‘it’s all so immediate. People rarely chat, they are more often than not giving messages’ and I chip in that most people now say ‘don’t phone, text!’ They even leave spoken messages telling you to do just that. It’s putting a strain on our talking time but not our voices.

I tell him, as if he is my counsellor (which I suppose he is), that I now really only have two or three friends left to phone in England, it’s all about Facebook now. He calls it ‘The Long Goodbye. You emigrate and expect to keep in touch via modern means but really it’s just prolonging the inevitable.’ He explains that when his parents emigrated from Holland, it was for good and apart from airmail letters you had to cope with having said goodbye for ever. I do visit my homeland in my dreams and my dad used to spend hours on google earth ‘driving’ round his practice after he had emigrated too. And thanks to modern aviation, I shall visit it in person later this year when I am going to be a bridesmaid for a friend outside London. Yes, that’s right, I have two beautiful daughters but my friend wants me as her bridesmaid!

We discuss weddings and Rene tells me that there has been an 80% drop in the number of weddings held in churches. However, there is a couple in New Zealand who went on google earth and thought that our town was the prettiest they had ever seen so he is marrying them in the church later in the year; they have never been here before!

Two coffees, one tea and one hot chocolate later, we head back into the street. I have to tell you that I went to four church services over Easter, Rene and Brett put on such beautiful and peace-loving services, I became addicted. I never thought I’d find a church like my old one back home, and I haven’t, I’ve found a new one and it’s really good.

Offspring on Swepstone Church wall. Dad's ashes are here.

Offspring on Swepstone Church wall. Dad’s ashes are here.

Brett and Rene.

Brett and Rene.

Raelene Hyatt 47/365


I have just been on the ABC radio and I had to keep admitting that my phoning friends blog is going to take some time. It’s all so emotional, you see, 365 days is nothing when it comes to digging up your past (with the receiver of a phone as a spade) and spreading it out across the internet for all to see. And the rush…I get excited that I will be ringing someone on, say, Friday, there’s the build up and then there’s the abject joy and hilarity in speaking to them down the line. Then comes the write up and that’s always packed with a suitcase full of emotion and then there’s the photo and the finished page, which I sometimes don’t want to move on from too quickly.

Damian 46/365, has been up there like a memorial statue to my youth for the last three weeks! It had taken me  three weeks in the beginning, just to digest the call.

Friends, we are losing a lot of sensory activity as the landline disappears into the landfill.

Here is the article. http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2015/04/14/4216203.htm

In the title, Larissa Romensky from the ABC has written that I had endeavoured to ring all my friends in a year but you and I both know I have failed at that! I was saying as much to my friend Raelene after I’d put the phone down to Larissa and she had rung the door bell and walked in with a moist chocolate cake- Raelene, not Larissa!

‘I’m trying to contact my friends but it’s hard, very few seem to be able to get to a landline, I’d like to get to page 50 by May.’ Raelene looked at me with her big brown eyes and told me reassuringly that I’d get there.

Then I said ‘You’re my friend aren’t you?’ she looked at me quizzically. ‘I mean you are my friend on Facebook’ and then I remembered all the pictures I’d seen of her daughters dressed up as fairies, dancing in the local forest. ‘You’re next!’ I said, relieved that as I see her twice a week, I won’t have to run the gamut of my emotions with this one and I picked up my pencil.

‘You’re a great friend,’ I said, ‘you bring cake and your daughter draw pictures of me!’ What more could I want in a friendship! I quickly took a snap of her and she turned away because she wasn’t wearing make-up. ‘That’s a good one!’ I say, turning it round, and she agrees to let me use it.

She’s number 47, a prime number for a prime friend, she’s a singer, we are sopranos in the choir together- giggling at the high notes, she lives over the road, she’s Anglo-Indian, her husband is part indiginous Australian, she makes balloon animals and sells popcorn, she face-paints and she bakes cakes. She’s Raelene and look, thank goodness for her,  there is no tear in my eye today.

Paige fairy Paige pic

Will Cox 44/365


It has been hard to pin Will Cox down for his chat. I get it in my head that a certain person is next and then it can take weeks to find them within an arm’s reach of their landline. He thought a chat to me via his mobile would suffice but NO! I put my foot down. It can only ever be a landline or skype chat or else the intimacy is in danger of being lost. There is also nowadays something quite mysterious for the rest of the family, seeing someone talking on a landline phone. Who else would they be speaking to but their mum or a telecommuniations company? And why are they laughing?

They are laughing because talking on a landline is so lovely. Will said to me that it would be great ringing up all your friends. He said ‘you must be calling people that you know just so much about and then learning about other parts of their life that you didn’t.’ He could have been talking about him and me. Our paths have meshed and twined over these last years but it was only when his family decamped from Apollo Bay to live nearer the city that I felt we knew each other well. And looking down my notes I said ‘you are everything that I thought you were, the family man’ (with the matinee idol looks of course!).

We talk at length about our children and the opportunities that are arising for them, the money that we pour into those opportunities and the reasons why we do it. Will’s family are very much a water-based family and his son whom they used to refer to as a harbour-rat is now surfing on a world class wave close to where they live. We drift off around lots of topics but always come back to the children, he has been a very hands-on Dad and his voice takes on a tone of incredulation when he states (as if he has just realised- it shocks him every time) that his oldest child will be flying the nest in just a couple of years.

We saw a lot of Will during a very exciting week in all our lives. He was in management for Parks Victora, and no, that doesn’t mean that he is a glorified park keeper. The National Park here covers thousands of kilometres of varied terrain and the Great Ocean Walk, which begins here in Apollo Bay, is/was under his wing. As part of a big promotion for the Great Ocean Walk (104 km of stunning coast-hugging walking track) a TV documentary was made to go out to the world. Three presenters were found to walk for the cameras. They were ‘Planetwalker’ and environmentalist John Francis, Olympic figure skater Katarina Witt and fastest Australian skier on one or two legs (fastest ever skier on one) Michael Milton (who is number 33 on this blog). Laird Hamilton, the surfer, was meant to show up too but when the surf in Hawaii became too big for him to leave, Will Cox stepped up to the mark to introduce the world to his beautiful back yard.

Will Cox 2 Will and Michael Will and KaterinaWill Cox

We talk about what a great time that was in our lives. Michael and his family stayed with us at the Aire Valley Guesthouse and some of the filming took place at the house. The TV crew and all the presenters were great to work with, although when I accidently mentioned to Katarina Witt that I used to watch England’s skating darling, Jayne Torville, skate in Nottingham, Katerina suddenly  looked like she was sucking on a lime and replied ‘Jayne Torvill is a very regular woman.’  Now when I want to cheer myself up, doing an impression of Katarina saying that sentence often works!

Will had way more than the usual 15 minutes of fame and took on the part of TV superstar like a duck to water. It was only after they had packed up their cameras and gone that we all bounced back to normality with more than a bit of a jolt. Thanks to social media he is still in touch with all the programme makers and looking back at his photos reminds me of the sense of fun that was ever present.

I’m telling you, life is short and full of joy. Call up an old friend, call up a new friend and hear your own laughter reverberate back down the landline. Just do it. At the end of our long chat Will hopes that he hasn’t come across as boring. ‘Boring?’ I reply, ‘more like life-affirming,’ and he jokily asks that I remind his wife (38/365) of that. But she knows it.

Bruce Mitchell 39/365

Bruce Mitchell, my English teacher at Ashby Grammar School in the 1980s is often referred to by his more formal moniker, Brucey Babes.

By the wonders of modern aviation, he is not at home, but three hours down the Great Ocean Road from me in Williamstown near Melbourne. His daughter, whom I babysat for when she was five, coincidently married the brother of a friend of mine’s son in law!

He answers the phone and of course he knew it was going to be me. He is draining the pasta with the phone tucked under his chin and we agree to try again in 30 minutes.

In that time I revisit 1986 in my mind, largely because of his distinctive voice which ushers a whole era back  into my consciousness but I remember that he has a subdued telephone voice that doesn’t match his real one.

Again he answers the phone and I whoop about, screaming here, laughing uproariously there, as he carries on speaking as if he is reading the news for BBC Scotland.

I was his prefect. This meant that in the last year of my education I went into his classroom first thing in the morning and took the register. I ask him, like an ex girlfriend, my teenage angst coming to the fore,  ‘Did you pick me as your prefect or were we just thrown together?’ I now can’t remember whether he said he did or he didn’t!

I talk to him about that class of his and he can’t remember them. He struggles to remember who my friends were and thinks I must be over 50! He reminds me that he has taught A LOT of people over the years and now they haunt his facebook friend list. In my notes I wrote down ‘people’ because I think teachers generally say they have taught a lot of ‘kids’. That was what set Bruce apart from the others, we were all just young people to him and he respected every one of us.

Some of my many delusions were shattered in this talk. I have been thinking all these years that Bruce still remembers everything I ever said, just as I remember everything he ever said. I thought he’d be carrying me around in his heart, as I have been carrying him around in mine. He hasn’t and he didn’t.  Perhaps that’s another sign of a good teacher. He made me think that what I thought was important, to him! He remains professional to a tee in our conversation as I chirp wildly about everything from our shared past and almost shock him with the details!

In 1979 my Mum had pointed him out to me on the stairs of the lecture theatre when my sister had a lead role in a DH Lawrence (obscure) play ‘The Widowing of Mrs Holroyde.’ I was twelve. He was wearing red glasses and had been tipped to be the next big thing at the school with his modern teaching methods. I talk about all the books we studied with him and he vaguely remembers teaching them. I tell him that he told us that ‘irony’ is like being run over by an ambulance and he likes that.

I confide in him about a final year Christmas party, which he knew nothing about.  Ten girls went to another, more senior,  teacher’s house. We danced all afternoon with the curtains closed in his lounge, got completely paralytic on sweet white wine (I threw up in his sink, he held my hair) and then we all went back to the school bus stop, to catch the buses home as usual.  When the bus stopped at my house, I fell out and onto the verge where my sister found me on my hands and knees. It was the norm back then!

He tells me that with the dumbing down of the syllabus he found himself teaching French. He sees the funny side in that. I reel off the names of the scholarly French teachers in my day and he says that our conversation is becoming like ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. He reminds me that he was born in 1950 and is enjoying life as a senoir member of our society because so many people stop him in the street to chat. I used to stop him in the street to chat when he was 38!

He has become the director of The Samaritans in Leicester and tells me, ‘if you ever think you have problems, believe me, you don’t.’

I tell him that living in a seaside town in Australia is a bit like living in Toytown (I actually crave a bit of grim inner city grit occasionally). Everything blue and sandy can feel a bit unreal.

But I’m living the dream. I have just spoken to my English teacher and friend for the first time in years and what could be better?

The class that I was Bruce's prefect for.

The class that I was Bruce’s prefect for.

Bruce and me, 6th form party, 1986.

Bruce and me, 6th form party, 1986.

Michelle Kavanagh Cox 38/365

Michelle warns me that when the phone rings in their house, no one answers it. She said that the phone doesn’t exactly ring, but announces the telephone number of the person calling and the Cox family just look at each other and wonder where the disembodied voice is coming from.

I call her and we decide that this isn’t going to be the blog chat because her husband is going in for surgery tomorrow. And then we gabble on to each other for forty minutes. I don’t take any notes and now I can’t remember a single thing that we talked about. Probably children, probably husbands.

Michelle is one of the main inspirations behind my children’s novel that is doing the rounds with agents at the moment.  I began stealing a few of her sentences and her general way of going about things after I went to see her in her role as diabetes educator. The main character in my book, ‘Nurse Perfect’ is self assured, glamorous (in the old sense), intelligent, funny and 2 cm tall. Michelle is all but one of those, you’ll have to guess which one.

We met when we first moved to this area. Our children were all doing gymnastics together and Mich and I rolled around on mats and chatted; she was pregnant and I hadn’t got any good excuses for going out where I should have gone in. Five years later she measured my waist at a local agricultural event and I agreed to have a series of long chats with her about diabetes. I have a lot to thank her for because she definitely had a big hand in turning my health around.

So I put the phone down and looked forward to speaking to her after her husband’s operation. That was two weeks ago. The days started rolling by and soon it will be months. I saw her last weekend at the theatre (as in play theatre, not hospital theatre) and we chatted about doing the blog chat but it has taken me until today to pick up the phone again. She isn’t in, or if she is she is just looking around, wondering what the noise is.


Flora (1)purse nurse sketches004Nurse Perfect (1)

Thanks to Marion Lindsay for these illustrations. I’ll ring and write part two with Michelle soon!



Part Two

Of course Michelle knew it would be me when I called again yesterday. Only her mother-in-law or ‘weidos trying to sell her something’ use her landline.

We again have a similar chat. We only ever contact each other through Facebook and it is just lovely to hear her voice pronouncing words. It’s as simple as that!

We talk about how easy it is not to speak often to old friends now. She lived in this small seaside town for eleven years but has moved closer to the smoky city. I miss her style and her down to earth take on life that only nurses have!

I tell her, as she is diabetes educator extraordinaire, that I am trimming down slowly and want to be able to get into a specific bridesmaid’s dress by August 2015. My good friend is marrying in Leicestershire UK and the combined age of the bride and three bridesmaids is 200. We don’t want to match that in inches around the waist!

I realise that again I have taken no notes, just enjoying the banter with Mich. We agree to talk in person the next time I go east and thanks to this blog and that phone call, we will!

Ali Beer 35/365

If my husband had married Ali, he would have suggested that they keep her surname, I know he would.

Ali rings me on the mobile as her phone is free after 7. I ask her to call me on the landline, she doesn’t have my number. I much prefer to hang off that piece of ergonomical plastic and my brain remains at the same temperature, no sizzling.

I know Ali through our baby group. Clearly baby groups have had a big impact on my life! We all had little boys apart from one mum who had little girls (with boys names).

Ali speaks with sympathy to me. ‘Poor you’ she says, having to ring up people and make random inane small talk’. And then we launch into an hour long sesh of hilarity, gossip and chit chat. If the quality of my conversations is judged by how many times the correspondent says ‘Don’t put this in the blog but…’, Ali is up there with the best!

My main connection with Ali is that she kindly offered to look after our small animals whilst we travelled round Europe in 2012. She already had one of our guinea pig’s offspring, Damian Parsley, and offered to have his mum and her friend, Rainbow and Genevieve and our anti-social rabbit, Mushroom.

To make things easy, she put them all in one big pen. For some time it went really well and then disaster struck- she messaged us when we were half way through Switzerland. Damian and Rainbow had produced a baby and Damian had committed suicide, although there was a slight chance he had been murdered.

However she was delighted with the completely inbred baby and when everyone, including us, had gone home, she sat him free in the garden and he is still there. He’s called Free Range. Not long ago she bought another guinea pig to keep him company.

‘What did you call that one?’ I ask(Ali is one of my most creative friends)

‘Free Range’ she laughs.

Ali runs a very successful business from her kitchen table sending home made soaps, lip balms, hair accessories and jewelry round Australia. She can’t understand where her time went before she took on this venture. I feel the same way, since doing this blog and taking a job as an actress at a lighthouse, I look back at the days before May as though they were in a bygone era.

I tell Ali what happened today. I arrived at the lighthouse and the chef was tearing out her hair over two tabby kittens she had caught. Cats are forbidden from National Parks in Australia and they had to go. Suddenly, and without warning, I heard a voice say ‘Don’t worry, I’ll find a home for them.’ It was my voice!

‘Just make sure the children don’t give them names’ she replied.

So when everyone tumbled into the car after school, they looked into a big box, expecting food. What they found were two spitting, swearing, blue eyed, feral, miniature moggies and each child burst into tears because they had never seen anything so cute.

Now in the warm dark of evening, I wonder what on earth I am going to do with Konichiwa and Salamat Danang.

Cats ali b

Kara Harrington 31/365

Kara and I met in the heady days when we both had our babies; her first baby and my last, both boys. We were at opposite ends of the fecundity spectrum. She, at 19  was old enough to be my daughter, but let’s not let age get in the way of a good friendship.

She kindly phones me as her calls are free in the evening and you just don’t know how long these things will go on for. Her voice takes me back to the kindergarten room where five of us sat round with babes on our laps, laughing. As the boys grew up they spent their kinder years in that room, I say room but I mean garden. Kara’s Matt and my James were mad on Aussie Rules so, thanks to their enlightened teacher, they spent four hours outside, three days a week in all weathers, kicking a bright oval red ball back and forth to each other when other three year olds throughout the country were being told to sit down. They both still hold dreams of playing for a top team.

Her voice also transports me right back to perhaps the most dramatic night of my mothering years. Kara was standing under the blades of an air ambulance helicopter as James and I went in, up and away to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

I had roasted a chicken (no the helicopter wasn’t for the chicken), and I had added a lot of watery stock to the bottom of the roasting dish. Then I had put on my trainers and run off to badminton.

My husband took the chicken out of the oven and put it in the uneven hob top, James wandered over, put one finger on the side of the roasting pan and the whole thing fell on him.

I had played a game and then saw that my phone was ringing. It was home.

I told a friend to call the local First Aiders and ran back. I have written a novel for girls that is doing the rounds with agents and publishers and is called ‘The Nurse in a Purse’. Six years ago I had forced my Dad to sit down and tell me all he knew about First Aid for my book, and burns had been high on his list. He had said that a lot of damage can be prevented just by holding the skin under cold running water until help arrives. So James and I stood under the cold shower for five minutes and I watched all the skin on his chest melt away.

Kara was between badminton games when she heard the helicopter landing outside. She related this conversation to me when we were huddled together as the paramedics got James ready.

‘What’s going on with the helicopter?’ she had asked.

‘Oh that will be for Annabel’s little boy’ some one had replied.

She did an exact impression then of her next sentence.

‘I said “What happened?”‘  But she didn’t just say ‘What happened?’ she said ‘What happened?’ with total love for James in her eyes like this, you try it, ‘What happened?’

I remember her big, glassy eyes against the dark of the night sky and having her there made all difference; her calmness and her care as the wait chipped away at my sanity. Then I jumped into the helicopter and we took off. The happy ending is that James’s chest healed really quickly and I don’t want to sound glib but it was hard not to enjoy skirting the ocean to the city in a flying car, my damp eyes making the twinkly lights into a kaleidoscopic laser show.  The next day we met footy legend Wayne Carey and James saw the sharks and the meerkats that live at the hospital. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m just describing the sort of dream you have when you’re pregnant.

Kara had three children in four years and we talk about her own dashes to hospital, through the Otways in the middle of the night.

She is now doing a dental hygiene degree at La Trobe University and has left the area for a while. We agree to meet on the beach in the summer holidays for a marathon kick to kick. I miss her.

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