The saddest thing about leaving Gympie had been leaving my cat, “Cat” behind. He was a large ginger fellow. I could never think of a name to suit him, so I’d christened him “Cat”. I loved him dearly. Every afternoon when I arrived home from work, he would be out on the footpath to greet and meet me. “Cat” managed to tear my heart apart the day I left Gympie. He walked right out to the roadside curbing with me when my “lift” arrived to whisk me away to my new world. “Cat” knew. Mum and Nana wouldn’t let me take him, which probably was the wisest thing to do, but that didn’t ease my pain of parting with him. Throughout my life up until then, I had always had a cat. Now, I had to leave my mate behind. It was a bittersweet parting. I was happy being on the brink of a new life, but sad to be leaving my friend of many years.
“R” was busy with his job as disc jockey with Colour Radio 4IP, so I saw little of him during the week and sometimes weekend promotional radio work also interfered with our time together, but at least we saw more of each other than if I had stayed in Gympie.
My departure from Morris, Fletcher and Cross came with little or no fanfare. I would not be missed after such a short tenure with them. Although, I did run into my ex-boss, Tony Atkinson a few years later and he remembered me.
My entrance into Kolotex Hosiery Australia caused little or no fanfare either. With only John Trimmer and me in the office there was no need for streamers, bells and whistles. They came later!
Kolotex manufactured the first panti-hose in
A couple of weeks after I commenced my new job, a tall, very attractive young woman, a few years older than me, walked into the reception area. She introduced herself as “Shirley Trimmer”, my boss’s wife, who was towards the end of her first pregnancy at the time.
Politely, I said, “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Trimmer.”
She laughed, ordering me to call her “Shirley”, which I have from that day forward. As the years unfolded, Shirley and I forged a strong friendship. Shirley and I have remained very close friends to this day; however, a lot of water has gone under the bridge in the intervening years, so I had better continue along with my story.
Previously, I’ve related the tale of visiting Shirley in hospital just after she gave birth, but I will repeat it here for those who may have missed its first airing.
Not yet 21 years old, I was “treading on unfamiliar territory”. My old enemy, “shyness” had a bad habit of reappearing when in the company of strangers. Shirley was still a stranger to me, plus she was my boss’s wife. I had only met her on that one, brief occasion in the office, and at the time, she had been towards the end of her pregnancy. The night before my impending visit, Shirley had given birth to a beautiful, bouncing baby boy. His birth was about six weeks after that first brief meeting between his mother and me. The proud new father suggested it would be a nice gesture for me to visit the hospital during my lunch break to spend a little time with Shirley and to view their newborn son, “Gavin John”. At that point in time, Shirley was fairly new to
Upon arriving at the hospital, I wished I was somewhere else or the chore ahead of me was over. I'm like most people, I guess. I hate hospitals. I lose my identity every time I set foot in one, which isn't often, fortunately, by my choosing. In trepidation, I walked quietly down the corridor, praying I wouldn’t slip on the highly-polished floor, diligently following instructions of the sign that said "Maternity Ward"! Neither looking right nor left for fear of disturbing patients or appearing rude, I eventually found the allotted room.
Stepping inside, I came upon four or five people gathered around the bed…more strangers! They turned and greeted me warmly. I smiled bravely, returning the greetings of the new mother and her welcoming visitors. I started to open my mouth to utter the expected utterances, when out of the corner of my eye I spied a face I recognised peering around a screen dividing the two beds in the room. I hadn’t noticed the screen when I first entered the room, too overwhelmed by the myriad happy faces there to meet me. I looked at the beaming face poking out from the screen to the new mother in front of me with whom I'd started to exchange pleasantries! A person who, by then, probably thought I was a friendly, well-meaning visiting Salvation Army “Sister Josephine” or whomever. Shirley, who I was supposed to be visiting was in the other bed, peeping out from behind the screen.
I withered. I wanted to disappear out of sight, and the world, forever! Embarrassment didn’t begin to describe how I felt. I begged Shirley not to mention to “Mr. Trimmer” my unforgettable, unfortunate entrance. I couldn't stand the thought of them laughing behind my back at my blunder! I felt so silly. The only thing missing from the scenario, I thought, was the piece of straw from my mouth. What a “hayseed” I was, I berated myself! Shirley vainly tried to appease my feelings of desperation. I feigned her kind words had put me at ease.
After Shirley and I exchanged small talk, “Gavin John” and I had our first introduction. He was beautiful. He looked like a three-month old baby, perfect in every way. Peacefully, he watched in wonder at the world around him, a fine coating of blonde baby hair atop of his perfectly-formed head, chubby cheeks and big blue eyes. I was immediately smitten.
As soon as I arrived back at the office, I went to see Mr. Trimmer. I told him the complete woeful tale of my embarrassing botchery! He was very understanding and gentle towards my fractured self, while laughing uncontrollably inside, no doubt, I thought! He wasn’t, I discovered later. He empathized, knowing what I was going through. In the years that followed, the story was repeated often and became a “family joke”. There still remains a laugh or three in it to this day and it’s frequently brought up in conversation.
So my life settled into a smooth routine for a while. “R” and I saw each other a couple of times a week, when possible, and on weekends when he wasn’t doing “outside broadcasts” or other radio promotional work. Sometimes I accompanied him to such events, other times I didn’t. Late one Friday afternoon, I caught a train to
Dawn, my flatmate, and I got on well together, not that we spent much time in each other's company. Most of the time, we were busy within our own lives. One evening, a few weeks after we'd moved into the flat, I met Jack, her fiancee, when he called by our flat to pick her up for an evening out. As he hovered around the front door, waiting for Dawn to ready herself, I tried valiantly to make conversation with him but it was an almost impossible feat. He had "John Wayne/Clint Eastwood Syndrome"...he spoke in monosyllables! After three or four attempts to invite him into the lounge room while he waited, I finally gave up on him, letting him remain where he seemed most at ease, standing on the unlit balcony.
Always one who becomes suspicious if life runs too smoothly and happily, I thought things were almost too good to be true, but pushed the thought from my mind, not wanting to rock the boat. My life had settled into calm waters with blue skies above; as if on cue that was to change all too soon. Dark clouds were forming on the horizon. The thunder had not yet made its presence known, and I’d not noticed the clouds.