Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reaching Out To The City Lights...Chapter Two

About two years before I left Gympie to live and work in Brisbane, I began "seeing" a young man who arrived in town amongst much fanfare. He was a new radio announcer at Radio 4GY. The hearts of many of the local girls fluttered and missed a few beats when he appeared in town. He was handsome, cocky and single! I noticed him walk by the office in which I worked a couple of times and understood why he caused disruption amongst the hearts of the young women of Gympie. Dressed in his black slacks, white shirt and narrow black tie, he cut a fine picture, but other than my initial appraisal, I took little further notice of him.

The new boy in town began turning up at the drama club rehearsals and readings of which I was a regular participant. At one such gathering, he even arrived with a copy of the book I was reading at the time. I thought it was a remarkable coincidence as the book was a book on Chinese philosophy, not a one that was on the list of bestsellers! Around the same time, he somehow got himself onto the invited list of guests at one of my girlfriend’s birthday party. Everywhere I went, he appeared with a nonchalant air about him. I learned later this was one of his ploys. He had made a few enquiries about me amongst some of the local young men. They told him not to bother asking me out as “she doesn’t go out with Gympie boys”. Of course this was like waving a red flag in front of a bull! It was true, I didn’t go out with Gympie boys, but then I never went out with any boys anywhere much at all. This was for no other reasons than with everything else I had on my plate, I had little or no time for dating. I hated dating, anyway and never dated just for the sake of it. I was never particularly interested in “dating”. I’m still the same way today. I’d not met that “special” someone whom I wanted as a “boyfriend”. I guess it’s difficult to explain. I knew a lot of young men but I never singled any one particular fellow out as a dating partner. They were a part of the people I knew, people who were friends, male and female. One of the guys I knew, who worked in Brisbane and was a lifesaver in the Noosa Surf Club was an ex-Gympie boy. He always came home to Gympie on the weekends during the ball seasons. He always escorted me to the balls. It just happened that way. We had a minor “crush” on each other, which flared up and died down without ever being fanned. That was as far as it went. Older than me by five or so years, he lived and worked in Brisbane, even though he was raised in Gympie. The home he was raised in was in a street behind the street I had grown up in.

For a short while, I had been “seeing” the older brother of a girlfriend of mine. However, he, too, lived in Brisbane and was attending Queensland University, so it was a “long-distance” friendship, wherein once in a while Marj, his sister, and I drove down to Brisbane for a weekend or two to visit with him. I was still living in Gympie. However, one bleak day I received a “Dear John” letter from him and that was the end of that budding romance that never blossomed! Upon receipt of that dastardly letter, I swore off men there and then, telling myself and my girlfriend, his sister, I no longer wanted anything to do with members of the opposite sex! The respite was short-lived, of course! I wasn’t cut out for a cloistered existence! The “new kid on the block”, the radio announcer, was persistently hovering in the background, intent in his pursuit of me.

I tripped. He caught me!

At first I refused to go out with “R”, other than meet him for coffee or fruit juice, telling him I was only interested in the two of us being friends. Of course, I was telling white lies to him and to myself. I wasn’t going to be “hurt” again, I promised myself. The “radio announcer” and I would remain “just friends”. Ahhh…the folly and beliefs of a tender young heart! As I said, I tripped and fell heavily. “R” and I became engaged on his 21st birthday. We had no plans for an early marriage. From the beginning it was to be a long engagement. Our engagement turned a little longer than I had originally believed it would be.

“R” left Gympie to become a disc jockey. He became one of the original “Colour Radio” guys at Radio 4IP, which was then the most “hip” radio station in the Brisbane area, even though the radio station was situated in and broadcasted from Ipswich. “Colour Radio 4IP” kept beating all the inner-city radio stations by a mile by winning all the frequent ratings. It was Number One on top of the ladder of popularity. It was the powerhouse of Top Forty music in the south-east Queensland corner.

After about five months or so of sporadic visits by “R” back to Gympie on his day off, which was a rare event, the distance between us grew longer with each passing day. Our living in separate areas was the catalyst that brought about my leaving home and my move to Brisbane, because Brisbane was closer to Ipswich than Gympie was. This was the excuse I needed!

“R” lived at the Palais Royal Hotel in Ipswich, just around the corner and down the street a bit from the radio station.

Upon arriving in Brisbane, the first few days I stayed with “R’s” parents at Geebung, a northern suburb of Brisbane. I then moved across the city to Toowong in the western suburbs to share a flat with “Dawn” who was to be my “flat-mate”. And a new adventure and chapter in my life commenced.

Our accommodation at one time had been the home of our landlady, who now lived in the lower level of the house. She had converted the upstairs level of the house into two “flats”. The one Dawn and I shared had two bedrooms, quite a large living area, kitchen and small balcony. My bedroom wall was about ten yards, if that, from the main western rail line, which didn’t bother me at all after a while. I soon became used to sound of the trains and never heard them go by. Soon, too, I didn’t notice the pictures on the walls trembling and the crockery in the cupboards rattling every time a train passed, and they went by often! At the corner of our street, Booth Street, was the Toowong public swimming pool, which was next door to the Toowong Public Library. Situated across the road from the library were the television and radio studios of the ABC, and further along on the opposite side of Coronation Drive, and within walking distance, was the Toowong Railway Station, where one could catch a train to Ipswich! The trip to Ipswich was only about 30-40 minutes by train, from memory…perhaps a little longer. And this was all pure coincidence!

Toowong is classed as an “inner-city” suburb, with easy, fast access to the CBD. Everything was falling into place and working out well for me. I had a new job, which I was about to start in a few days, a new “home”, a new “friend” in Dawn and I was closer to Ipswich and Ipswich was closer to me, which meant, of course, “R” and I would now see each other more frequently. Life was looking up!

It’s funny how some things remain in one’s mind. I’ve always clearly remembered saying to Dawn the first time we met when we were both moving ourselves and our belongings into the flat, words to this effect, “I want to say this up front…I expect each of us to respect each other’s privacy and space. I won’t be in your “pocket” and don’t expect you to be in mine.”

I never needed to say those words and have always felt if I could have taken them back, I would have. I couldn’t have found a better person to share with than Dawn as it turned out. Even though she and I were as different as “chalk and cheese” in so, so many ways…in another way we were very much alike. Both of us respected each other’s space and privacy. The rare times we were together and shared a meal, we enjoyed each other’s company immensely, talking our heads off, catching up with what the other had been doing since last we’d sat down to talk. I always cooked (how strange!) and Dawn did the washing up. We had a central fund that covered our rent, utilities and grocery expenses. We shared the household chores, but nothing was ever “set in concrete”. Dawn was very seldom there, so in actual fact, it was almost as if I was living alone, the way I had wanted to be. Soon, I discovered meek and mild Dawn was not quite as “meek and mild” as I thought she was. Please don’t think I’m judging her. I’m not. I didn’t judge her then and I’m not judging her now. I was just very surprised, because she did seem so “straight up and down”. She dressed very conservatively. She was very quiet by nature and personality, almost timid. Dawn was a Roman Catholic. She had a framed picture of Jesus above her bed and rosary beads under her bed pillow. Me, I was none of the above!

Dawn had a long-time boyfriend who was a top footballer, rugby league. He was a “Kangaroo”, having represented Australia a few times, both overseas and nationally. She and Jack had been “going out” together for quite a while by the time I met Dawn. They were an “item”. They were more than an “item”, actually. They were engaged. I rarely saw Jack as he was always away somewhere else with his sport, whether it was playing or promoting it. Quite by accident and by instinct one day, I discovered Dawn was also “seeing” her boss! So much for me being “worldly” (or thinking I was!), I was still very much a “little girl from the bush”, it would seem! Life was growing more interesting and intriguing by the day!

Raw from the country and fresh to the "big city", I started working for one of the partners in the law firm of Morris, Fletcher and Cross, situated in the Penneys’ Building in Queen Street, Brisbane, Queen Street being the main street in the city of Brisbane. At the time, Morris, Fletcher and Cross, reputedly, were the largest law firm in Australia, if not the southern hemisphere, or so I was led to believe. I think it was true. At that time I believe there were twenty-three or twenty-four partners on the pay-roll. Tony Atkinson, to whom I was secretary, specialized in insurance claims and divorce matters. Walking into the building and offices on my first day was like landing on a far distant foreign land or planet. Everything was so far removed from what I’d been used to in my workplace in Gympie. In the Gympie office, I was part of a “family”…a “country practice”, where I was cared for, nurtured and treated like a person, someone who mattered. At Morris, Fletcher and Cross I felt I was just a number…one amongst thousands!

I’d walked into a huge, multi-storey building housing many offices, as well as rows upon rows of typists sitting in front of duplicate typewriters in a “typing pool”. I shared an office adjoining my boss’s office with one other girl. Thankfully, I wasn’t part of the “faceless, nameless typing pool”. I had no idea how many girls were employed by the firm. I couldn’t get over it. I’d only seen such a sight in the movies. I was expected to “clock-in” each morning and “clock-off” each afternoon, as well as for lunch breaks. A “tea lady” pushing her laden trolley weaved her way around the corridors, office and typing pool mid-mornings and mid-afternoons. It was all so foreign, strange, unfriendly and cold to me. I wasn’t very happy. Day after day, hour after hour I was taking dictation, typing and putting together brief after brief on horrendous insurance claims and equally horrendous divorce statements. This was just before the Divorce Law Reforms came into effect, when a person’s intimate details were still divulged in minute, precise detail. Having to read through and type such personal disclosures didn’t thrill me much at all. I thought if I spent a few years doing that type of work, I would end up being a very cynical person and I had no intention of becoming one.

It was five weeks following my introduction into my new job that I attended a party on a Saturday night. Gary, one of the “Colour-Radio” guys held it at his apartment in Annerley, another Brisbane suburb. Quite a few “muso’s” were in attendance, so we were all sitting around listening to them playing their various instruments, sipping on a wine, scotch or whatever. I was deep in conversation with Beth, who was Gary’s girlfriend at the time. We’d not met before that evening nor, for that matter, had I met most of the others at the party. The group mostly consisted of radio and advertising people. I was very new to Brisbane and the folk at the party were mostly “R’s” work buddies and associates. I knew no one in Brisbane, still being a newcomer to the city.

Discussing my feelings towards my new job, Beth said, “Hey! My job was advertised in today’s “Courier Mail”. I’m leaving because I’m becoming an air hostess. Why don’t you apply for the job!”

Beth gave me the relevant details, telling me the boss was a good man to work for etc. There was only him and her in the small office in Queen Street. The office was situated in Heindorf House, which, as it turned out, was diagonally opposite the Penney’s building that housed Morris, Fletcher and Cross. My spirits rose. Perhaps there was a light at the end of the tunnel, after all!

To be continued.....

(The pictures above depict the Victoria Bridge, the Brisbane City Hall, Sherwood Street in Toowong and the Regatta Hotel in Toowong)


  1. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Lee, you remind me of my Grandfather. He too tells many a true tale of his days gone by. He has kept diaries since the year before my birth. You and he are such inspirations for me to do two things in my future.... One is to work hard to restore my memory or lack of remembering.... and two is to start keeping diaries. I have another blog that is private that I write all my daily thoughts and happennings in. I will show my children one day.
    Thanks for sharing Lee, and for the lovely words you left me.

  2. The only time I've kept a diary, Nicole was for a little while when I was about 12 or 13 years of age. I've always had a good memory so my mind is my diary, I guess.

    No offense to your grandfather,Nicole, but I hope I don't look like him or vice versa! ;)

    Hey! My words are true...you are a very talent young woman. :)

  3. Hi Lee ~~ You sure do have a wonderful memory and I am so glad you are doing these stories for us and for yourself, if the memories fade a little. I hope they don't !! I can see you taking that other job, next episode. Thanks for yor stop by my place. Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

  4. Anonymous1:33 AM

    Nice, Lee. A good memory is what you have. Love the begining of the new life.

  5. Hi Merle and Steve...nice to see you both...I'm glad you're both enjoying my latest rambling/ravings! ;)

  6. you DO write as if this were a diary.. hope you are keeping a copy in Word and saving to a cd or dvd..nice way to keep the memories!

  7. Hi Lee, Brisbane sounds like it hadn't yet shaken the "big country town" image off
    when you arrived.

  8. You did a good job of dangling the next chapter for us poor readers. It makes me walk through my own past life. Please type the next chapter very fast.

  9. I'd go crazy too working on divorce proceedings. Glad to see your escape is imminent. Write on!

  10. Hey there Deslily, Peter, Lady Di and Corn Dog...I'm pleased to see I still have you coming along with me on the ride. Thanks for your comments, one and all. :)

  11. Lee, what a rich and splendid memory you have. I think I've forgotten more of the details of my life than I ever knew. There's probably a reason for that.

    Your stories are just wonderful. I eagerly await the next chapter.

  12. Thanks Serena...sometimes a good memory can get one into trouble, too! ;)

  13. Wow, this is a really interesting read....when do we get more?

  14. Hopefully tomorrow, Rebecca...I've yet to start on Chapter Three...but it shouldn't take me long to get stuck into it and post it. :)

    Thanks for popping in...good to see you again. :)

  15. Oh, Lee, I am hooked on this story of your life! So beautifully told and so much I identify with there - about "dating" , personal space, "not being one for the cloistered life" and so on. I wonder if we were both free-spirited women a little ahead of our time? Auguri dalla Sicilia.

  16. I don't know, Welsh, perhaps we were. I used to always say my mother was ahead of her time. Maybe that was one of her traits I inherited.

    Thanks for visiting...it's always nice to "see" you. :)

  17. The 'Dear John' letter concerns me here. Maybe a bit confused was he? I can clearly see you are no John.
    I hope you got the job. Sounds better than Bigco.

  18. Well, maybe I should have said "Dear Marsha", Cliff, not wishing to add to your confusion! Hehehehe! ;)