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Bob Knowles 55/365

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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.

http://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-35gcb-5d76c3#.VuO5rQKT5_k.facebook

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

http://apollobayradio.podbean.com/?s=Annabel

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.

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

 

 

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James Ashley Harriman 42/365

I wanted a memorable reunion for number 42, it’s one of my favourite numbers.

I tried to call several people but things, like Christmas, got in the way. I stopped pushing and felt perhaps that 42 would happen in its own time.

And it did. I put out a post asking for a friend to volunteer and when James responded I knew that this was the one!

James first came into my life when he was about four and I was seven. We lived in neighbouring villages, he was the youngest of three boys and I was the youngest of three girls. We had very similar parents, sensible siblings, all upstanding members of the community but we weren’t about to let that stand in the way of our own rebelliousness.

When he picked up the phone he said he had been dreading this moment and I whooped with delight that his voice hadn’t changed a bit. He reminds me that we last spoke 23 years ago when I walked past him in Brisbane. I was on a  very late gap year in Australia, he was working in construction and when we saw each other, we nodded and  said ‘Ay up’ as if we were in Measham. Then we looked back and laughed, a lot. I remembered that I had a photo of that chance meeting and was pleased as I could only ever remember having evidence of our friendship on my dad’s cine films.

James harriman Bog roll

So there we are in Brisbane in the days before selfie sticks and here we are ( this will shock him) in 1986 in a charity race in Ashby de la Zouch. I found this photo as I was looking for the Brisbane shot. The race was called the Bog Roll and we had to wear fancy dress and push a toilet round a course around the town. We were dressed as fitness fanatics and James just joined in! The winners won with their toilet in a shopping trolley, such a good idea, so light!

James and I talked for 80 minutes about everything that mattered. I urge you all to pick up your landlines and ring up your childhood friends. You will talk about each other’s bikes, the paths and lay-bys near your homes, your unfathomable siblings, your friends in common, Sunday school, the laughs, your streaks and your perms, your mum and your dad, how you fell into what you’re doing and when you last went home. Do it! There will only ever be smiling.

James is still in Brisbane and his parents live not far away. I remember them well and their red setter too. I ask him whether he has any children, it’s hard to picture the twiggy, smirking, wide eyed and great fun boy from the village next door as a dad. He has four children and his daughter is called Annabel. I am shocked and flattered but then I remember that my son is James.

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.

kara Wayne Carey If My Dad were a dog banner ad

Martin Satchwell 29/365

It is 6.30 am. I am half an hour late as I dial England.
Martin answers the phone before it rings.
What a nice life I have, getting out of bed that has one Martin in it and phoning another who I haven’t spoken to since 1982.
‘It’s been a long time between drinks’ I chirp.
And he says something unrepeatable.

Martin has never left the area where we grew up. He lives on Penistone Street and it was only when I drove my Australian Martin past that sign for the first time that I wished Mr Penistone had adopted another ‘n’.

Martin Satchwell was in my year at school but he was in class 3B. Oh 3B, I can smell the pheromones as I write.
When God (or Miss North) decided on the roll call of 3B, she worked out in advance whose testosterone levels would go off (the scale) at roughly the same time and then bunched them all together and put them in a room, on its own, up two flights of stairs. In anticipation of all the dancing, jokes, filthy language and wrestling, she put the strictest teacher in charge. So the female population of the school had to wade through a waterfall of adrenaline, sex hormones and biscuits, just to make it to the door.
3B boys would be positioned at intervals on the stairs and we would relish delivering a lame message to someone indistinct, just for the pubescent rush and perhaps a ping of the bra straps.

Were you ever on the stairs Martin?

If he wasn’t on the stairs then, I think he is now.
He wonders whether I ever saw him as anything other than the boy whose school bag was bigger than he was.
‘Martin’ I say ‘I was tall for my age, you were short for your age, you were the shy one, I was the loud one, it would never have worked.’

In 1982, Martin wrote this in my leavers autograph book.

Satchwell

It was the sweetest message in there by far. I remember reading my book to the end and saying ‘Martin?’
I must always have been destined for a Martin. Just not this one. But hey, I spoke to him this morning after 32 years and who’d have thought.

If My Dad were a dog banner ad

Kate Wagstaff 28/365

In a world where bad news is no longer currency, but wallpaper, it pays to have someone like Kate Wagstaff in your life. As dispositions go, I would say that she is the most sanguine person I know.
Kate lives almost round the corner, give or take a few junctions, and we phone each other up often enough for her to have my name come up in lights on her landline (but it could well say ‘Crazy Pom’).
We lament that the phones have stopped ringing. Apart from close family calling, she never needs to pick up the phone and taps out Fb messages/texts to close friends because that is the only way they communicate now. She misses the hidden treats that a phone conversation brings, a mention about the weather, the tone of a voice.
And speaking of voice tone, Kate was born with an extraordinary singing voice that she never shows off about, and should. In choir we hardly practice her solos and know that the sound she will make on the night will knock the socks off the front row.
I begin relating a story to her about what happened last week when I was nearly squashed by an enormous falling tree on the Great Ocean Road. I had to accelerate under it on the wrong side of the road and it fell behind me. Long story but it gave me such a fright that I rang my daughter’s school an hour away and cancelled their evening arrangements, asking them to make sure my daughters got on the bus. One got a message, one didn’t so I had to drive up in the dark looking at tree tops against the moonlight all the way. At the end Kate reminds me that I told her about it last week in person but says it was quite nice to hear it again. I suddenly feel my age, 46.
Trees falling is an everyday hazard here. Putting small children on a bus and waving to it as it sets off for the 23 km ride to primary school felt like an extreme hazard when we moved to the area. That’s why we chose the school where Kate’s mum was the secretary and her brother the bus driver. We were all spoilt. Having come from London I would have a small panic about my five year old not getting on the right bus home. I didn’t know for almost six months that buses didn’t drive up to the stop, load up with kids and drive away. They were parked outside the school for about twenty minutes and registers taken, but Kate’s mum still went out to check that my lithe little child had sat down in the right place.
Kate then says that she wonders how bad it must be for families in war torn countries to put their children on a boat to Australia. We talk about the nine Tamil asylum seekers that Australian Customs officers trained in how to skipper an orange lifeboat back to India.
Kate says it would be like them giving us instructions on how to sail a ship across the Indian Ocean and I have to admit that sometimes we make a big deal about our pain in reading music.

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Members of the choir accept our sponsorship cheque from the Bendigo Bank. Singing makes you happy! Kate is the angelic looking one, far right and far left; balanced.

Wayne Williamson 27/365

Wayne comes in at number 27. He wants to be 27 but doesn’t say why and I forget to ask. We have been friends since he was the one on the far left in the hand knitted blue V-neck and I was seated four along the second row.

Wayne in the blue in front of Mrs Rothwell, me in the smock, seated fourth from the left.

Our friendship is 41 years old and his voice hasn’t changed in sound, just in pitch. When he answers the phone he reminds me that we weren’t very close friends at Snarestone C of E primary school (thanks) and I tell him that he used to get on my nerves (you’re welcome).

I think he means that it is quite startling that, with the help of the instrument of Facebook, we are closer now than we have ever been. In 2012, after Wayne and I had spent a year on messenger, he organised a reunion of old mates. It was on the evening after my Dad’s memorial service and was like the cherry on the big medical cake- me chatting to old friends about what my dad had cured them of and remembering when, without anaesthetic, he had freed Wayne’s willy from his zip.

We both have crystal clear memories and catching up on them has been a scream. I can ask him to name the type of car that Geoff Eaton (father of our close mutual friend, Toni) was driving in 1973 and he would remember the registration. I could ask him what type of transportation  Norina’s Italian mum wore dangling from her ears and he would say ‘Silver ships’, wouldn’t you Wayne? And what did she use as a pet name for us all? My baby.

I tell him that I was always in awe of the naughty kids. When I stayed at Toni’s we took over the streets of the village of Snarestone, played ‘Knock-a-door-run’, rode our bikes round in circles in the road, and drank bottles of pop secretly stolen from the village hall. We did impressions of Terry Ashmore buying cigarettes, ’10 number 6 and a packet of matches’ and got chased by the same drunk man outside The Globe repeatedly. We did some other things that are just unspeakable, but it’s not as if any of us got killed is it? Yes it is.

I’m glad when the topic of our friends who have died comes up early in our conversation. In a school where there are only nine in a year group, losing two before they are adults is life changing for everyone. Wayne was in the year above and was close friends with Norina through village life and would have been protective over Roger because of their shared impish streaks. They were all such live wires. In the picture, Norina is three to the right of me and Roger is two down from her.

Both of us remember Roger’s death as if it was yesterday. I remember the stripy socks I was wearing and the cream phone in Scotland that I took the call from Toni on. He remembers the look on the face of the neighbour who came to say that Roger had been knocked off his bike by a motorbike and had died.

Five years later, in 1984 I was in bed fretting about exam results on the 24th of August and my parent’s home help came in to tell me what she had heard on the radio and Norina had died after falling off the back of a motorbike.

Wayne and I discuss their funerals. Children weren’t at Roger’s. My mum went and gave me a minute by minute run down of it all. I remember the hymns and all the details as if I was there.

Norina’s funeral was packed. It was held in the tiny church that we attended as a school and again, nothing is forgotten. I tell Wayne that losing those two has sent my life off in directions that I would never have dreamed of because, at a very impressionable age, I learnt that life can be over in a second. And if it can end that quickly, what are we waiting for?

Wayne was clearly in a hurry to make the best of his life. He has three children and ten grandchildren (you heard). He is his own boss, he follows his passions of football and formula one and he wrestles daily with the vivid memories that make him who he is.

At Norina’s funeral the vicar stood up and, in his dramatic Welsh voice, said ‘Every single one of you will be sitting here now asking why. Why would God take away a young life such as this? Why would a caring God take back one whom we all loved so much?’

We listened as if our lives depended on the answer.

‘And the answer is…

we don’t know.’

me and w roger

Ellen Begely 26/365

ebEllen sits down and asks ‘So what is this all about Annabel Tellis?’
I feed her the line that I have just told Bettina 25/365. Ellen tells me that she did something similar in 2011. She blogged on Facebook for a hundred and one days. She chose to write about 101 different recreational activities that would add to her fitness as she prepared to go to The States.
She asks me to remind her of the name of my blog.
‘Now that the phones have stopped ringing.’
‘Poignant’ she replies and begins looking for it on her phone.
‘Oh, just google Annabel Tellis 365’
‘Not so poignant.’
Ellen reaches into her bag, gets out and puts up her purple good luck cocktail umbrella. It sits on her phone. She tells me that her friends know she doesn’t communicate through Facebook anymore.
‘But we arranged this meet-up through Facebook.’
‘Oh not messenger, I’m always on that’ and now I’m the confused.
Our conversation runs off in different directions over vegetable juice. Most of it is, I’m sorry, off limits. She tells me ‘You don’t lose, you learn’ that life is all about ‘tests of strength.’
I tell her about my beaver. It’s a fur coat that was left to me and I decided to get it out of its bag this morning after I’d seen one on eBay for 1,800 dollars. She tells me to wear it. It is from the 1950s and is almost too real and shiny to be seen dead in.
Ellen is planning to move to L.A. but because of messenger we will not be out of touch for as long as one of us is still alive. She loves the vibrancy of California. Having come from a coal mining area in the U.K., I think our town, Apollo Bay is vibrant. She says she worries about it because progress is slow.
I met Ellen when she set up a pop up-up coffee shop in town with her friend Tamara. They made the most painstakingly beautiful coffee for four months and then they popped it down again. I miss them both. Ellen’s friends think she should have her own show as a chat show host, like the other famous Ellen. I agree. She is funny and not afraid to ask awkward questions.
Somehow we jump to me giving birth to my first baby in London, right opposite the Houses of Parliament. I had a billion dollar view from my room at St Thomas’s hospital but frugal care. On Day Three of my labour (note capital letters), Martin was at the ‘making bad jokes’ stage. I had been put on a ward with pregnant women who were well enough to be watching telly, and I was providing the ear splitting sound effects of what they would go through in a few weeks.
Suddenly my friend arrived.
She had been looking after our dogs and waiting for the phone to ring. Sixty hours of wondering passed and she jumped on the train and came in to find out for herself. She found me, writhing around in agony, leaping off the bed every three minutes, screaming with every contraction and she immediately said ‘I’m going to phone your dad.’
He was a hundred miles away. He drove down with my mum and as soon as they arrived a couple of the doctors recognised him, and everyone began leaping around to help. They discovered I had a kidney infection (so that was why I was screaming) and the baby arrived thanks to a very handsome doctor who had studied under Dad in Leicester. One week later my dad had a stroke.
‘Why didn’t you phone him?’ Ellen asked.
‘What?’
‘When you had been in labour for sixty hours and your dad is a doctor, why didn’t you phone him?’
And we sat there in complete silence for some time, because I don’t know why.

Bettina Terry 25/365

As Bettina breezes out of the café, two hours after we began, I tell her that I don’t know where to start with this.
‘In the middle’ she replies and pays for the coffees.
I’ll cut to the chase. That’s a good metaphor to use in a blog about Ms Terry, she’s the fastest and fittest person I know. When I don’t have problems with my chest (stop it!) we go to the same circuit class and I watch her give the guys a run for their money. (Some people in town think that I’m married to her husband whose surname is Tallis and I like that.)
Bettina is exasperated. She stopped me outside school and asked if I could give her a little coaching session about Facebook as I seem to know what I’m doing. So I, a Facebook-sceptic am giving her, a Facebookphobic a lesson on Facebook, within a blog about Facebook.
Bettina feels, quite strongly and with hilarious exaggerated facial expressions, that she is running down her very interesting path of life, communicating with people in exactly the same way that she did 15 years ago, and over the hedge she can see immense activity in another paddock, the one they call ‘the online world’. She waves over the hedge and no one wave back, why? She even has solid proof that no one is waving because when she joined up five years ago, she put a faux birthday date on her page and no one says ‘Happy (non) birthday’ to her.
Her profile picture shows a little tent perched on a cold hillside. Is she in it? I’m writing this blog a day later and I text her to ask. Her timeline shows lovely pictures of Bettina and friends that her friends have uploaded but she herself hasn’t posted anything since 2008! She says she is a troglodyte, I think she means Luddite.
She hates Facebook, she hates the competitiveness, she hates the glossy brochure of one’s life being laid out in everyone’s houses. She hates the emails. The emails? She shows me her emails. As far as the eye can see there are messages from Facebook Facebook Facebook to tell her every single subtle nuance that has taken place on everyone else’s pages in the whole world of newsfeeds! She feels like Facebook has taken over her life and yet she never looks at it. I tell her that in two clicks that will all stop.
Bettina wants to learn about netiquette. It’s a hard one to teach, you learn it along the way, sometimes the hard way. I tell her that I garnered everything I know about Facebook in a half hour lesson from my 19 year old godson. He told me to avoid the newsfeed button because it’s a complete waste of time. I half took on his advice and limit myself to looking at the top three posts in the morning. Last night my friend’s brother’s house blew away in a tornado and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that bit of news.
Bettina wants me to tell her about the significance of the ‘like’ button and I say “Well you can completely dislike something and ‘like’ it. ‘Like’ means ‘I see what you’re saying’ or ‘I hate that as much as you do’ or ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ and also it means ‘I like that.’ I suppose the word ‘acknowledge’ was too complex for the planet.”
She often punctuates our conversation with the question ‘Why are you doing this blog?’ I keep finding it hard to put in a nutshell, and we get distracted. In the end I say that I want to address why the phones have stopped ringing and what effect that is having on us all. For the first time in our animated conversation she takes on a distant look. We talk about the deaths of our fathers. Her father worked from home and put a new phone line in Bettina’s bedroom when she hit the teens to keep his phone from ringing. Like me, the phone is wrapped up with her dad.
I confess that sometimes the police would ring our doorbell to say that my dad, the doctor, couldn’t be contacted and he’s needed in an emergency. He’d pick up the receiver in the kitchen to hear me on the other phone discussing the comparative merits of John Taylor and Simon Le Bon with Julie. Then he would race out of the house to the accident/heart attack/birth giving me plenty of time to plan distracting conversation topics for dinner time.
We talk about growing up with very active and now departed fathers. Bettina had a brother but always felt she needed to show her Dad how strong, clever, fast she was. I tell her that as the last of three girls I fell into the lad of the family role, racing bikes and short hair. I felt I needed to acknowledge the Alexander that I was until I popped out. I tell her that my Dad never ever said that he wished I’d been Alex afterall, healthy babies were everything to him. His patients, on the other hand, used to say they wished I’d been a boy to my face, they still do!
My grandfather, as the only boy in his family, having had one boy, my dad, must have felt a bit short changed. Even though we were very close, he did turn to me in the nursing home and say ‘Isn’t it a shame your dad didn’t have any children!’
I tell Bettina to have a laugh with Facebook and don’t try to understand it. She says that she wishes people would stop shortening words like ‘See you’ to C U. That reminds me of a text that Pookah Choo 14/365 sent me in the days when we were both learning to use our mobile phones, years ago. We had been to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the musical, and she had texted me to say ‘Lovely 2 (I’ll write it in longhand) See You N Truly Scrumptiousnesses.’ That had stopped me in my tracks.
I look at my phone. Bettina still hasn’t texted back about being inside the tent on the rocky hillside.

Four hours later, she lets me know she’s in there.

 

Bettina

Anna Morton 24/365

I think this post will prove to be quite popular as sexually transmitted diseases are almost the last taboo. Has that got your attention?
I am not ringing Anna, I am going one step further and meeting her for coffee. She made my door bell ring last December after my jewelry box had been stolen. I opened the door to the tall and statuesque silhouette on the doorstep. She was clutching a small black velvet bag full of necklaces.
We order great big bowls of coffee and I take notes as she speaks. She finds this entertaining as she is usually the one taking notes as her patients speak. She is a doctor at Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. And no, I won’t be sharing any history, not with you anyway. I talk to her about G.U.M. and she laughs. In England, Genito Urinary Medicine would be the sign to follow at the hospital, is it called G.U.M to make it appeal to youths?
She tells me about her one full day a week of colposcopies (you know, taking samples from the cervix) and she really enjoys all aspects of her work. Sex workers come to see her and they say ‘Your job’s disgusting,’ which she finds funny.
I thought this was going to be a really long page in my blog and I have been working up to it. It has been the school holidays, the world cup, I have had a chest virus and shinnanigans in my life and all the while that I haven’t been blogging I have thought I must give Anna’s page my best shot with all those notes I took.
I have just turned over the first page on my notebook and there is only one word on the second. It is Gardasil. Anna spoke about the incredible effect Gardasil has had on lowering the rates of the HPV virus. They are down 95%. An Australian developed the vaccine and Anna took part in the first trials. She calls it an amazing cure.

We talk about her lovely old fashioned and clever parents whom I knew and who died within six months of each other in 2012. Her Dad had trained in mountaineering with Edmund Hillary and was also the Professor of Maths at Monash University. I tell her that I feel a bit embarrassed because I had always thought that Monash was an acronym for something like ‘Melbourne Organisation for National Academia Southern Hemisphere’. And it wasn’t until we went to the Somme battlefields that I found out Monash is credited with turning round the First World War.

We cover lots of topics that would never be aired on Facebook and perhaps would only ever be told face to face.

She tells me that she had a cycling accident which could have killed her, in her twenties, and still has some double vision when she is tired.

But we seem to keep going back to sexually transmitted diseases and in the end I almost envy her her job!

I tell her about the time when, as an 18 year old I had gone into the chemist and bought cheap purple-ish hair dye. I spent the afternoon in the bathroom then sauntered down the stairs all mauve to show those gathered in the kitchen. A friend of the family loved the gentle purple hue that shone from my black mop of hair and she asked me the name of the colour.
‘Chlamydia’ I said and almost felt the heat of shocked facial expressions.
It was ‘Clematis.’

The beautiful, inside and out, Dr Morton.

Anna Morton

Ruth Burrows 22/365

I ring Ruth on her birthday. We have had it planned for ages. She couldn’t speak earlier because she is doing a degree in business and management studies and today, she says, she no longer has to revise. Suddenly I am back in the classroom, its Maths,1983, we are sitting together and I’m looking out of the window! We didn’t fail Maths, the whole class got put down to study for a lesser exam, the whole class! I deserved to be put down but she didn’t. We didn’t mention this in our chat.

She is concerned that this call is going to cost me a fortune. I don’t care, we haven’t spoken on the phone since we were 14! Her voice hasn’t changed and I know that her looks haven’t either because she came along to a small school reunion we had when I was last in the mother country in 2012.

We go all around the houses in our conversation, we have a lot of news to catch up on. I’m kicking myself now for not talking about what happened to everyone in Maths. One of our classmates was having a baby as we were studying trigonometry and I forgot to marvel with her that the baby would now be 31!

We talked tattoos. She tells me that she went for a fifteen pound tattoo from a guy in his upstairs spare room. She hoped for a rose, but left with a swallow (!)

Years and six hundred pounds later, she had it removed. She tells me to Google her daughter’s tattoo which Ruth is not pleased about. There’s a storm outside and the electricity keeps flicking on and off. I was sitting here a moment ago googling ‘don’t open dead inside’ and now I am completely scared rigid!

For an hour on this, her birthday, we talk about her cats killing moles (cats are mean like that, I say), the dog bites on her legs that I still remember vividly, M&S cocktail pork pies, M&S knickers, the Australian accent being based on both Essex and Suffolk, Literary Speed Dating which I did at the weekend, Castleton in Derbyshire, why we called our children what we did, our classmates, going back to work and her son’s imaginary life that he used to describe aged 3.

As we sign off I tell her that I’ll send her a link to a TV programme about a boy who was born knowing minute details about the life of an American pilot who died in the war. It was thought at first that he had an imaginary life with a vivid imagination but now they believe that he is the reincarnation of the pilot. Now she is freaked out!

It’s just like being at school!

Here we are with our dear departed form teacher Mrs Webster in 1980, Ruth is top left, I’m far right.

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