Emigration was very popular during the post war period. For ten pounds, you could make a brand new start in a brand new country. Of course, there were a few ground rules laid down by the powers-that-be. All applicants had to have someone in Australia ready to sponsor him or her and find them accommodation, prior to arrival. Another condition was that your trade or profession had to be one of those listed by Australia House. It was pretty easy to find someone who had a friend or relative in Aussie-land to help with sponsorship. And since Dad’s trade, building and decorating, appeared on the list, there was no problem. Dad got caught up in the excitement of it all, and he and Mum went along to Australia House to get forms and details. There were booklets to read and films about all aspects of life in Australia.
Arthur and I were very worried about it all. We couldn’t bear to be parted, but neither of us wanted to lose our family. The problem seemed to be insoluble and we could think of nothing else.
On the evening of August 22d 1949, three months before my eighteenth birthday, Arthur and I decided to go to one of out favourite places: Jack Straw’s Castle, a pub adjoining Hampstead Heath. We would sometimes go there for a glass of cider before walking on the heath. It was a beautiful, balmy, summer’s evening and we sat in the long grass talking of Dad’s plan to leave England, and watching birds hopping around in the trees. Suddenly, Arthur turned to me.
‘Would you marry me?’ he said.
I had been waiting and hoping for this moment for weeks and had rehearsed in my mind several romantic responses. Now, faced with the big question, all I could blurt out was: ‘I might if you asked me.’
‘I am asking you,’ he replied. ‘Will you marry me?’
I said ‘Yes’ we kissed, and then caught cloud nine disguised as a number 210 bus home.
Jack Staw's Castle where I was proposed to.
We decided not to say anything to out parents, but to start saving for an engagement ring. During the next month or so, all Dad’s thoughts of Australia were forgotten, like so many of his ideas that had gone before. The panic was over!
As a matter of fact, this was the second time that fate almost had me wrapped up and bundled down-under.
After I left school and before I started work, Daddy had yet another business partner, called Bert. He had a young brother called Joe, who was rather sweet on me. Joe was a very nice lad who happened to be a blonde. I had a ‘thing’ about blonde men: I didn’t like them. They tended to have pale eyebrows and eyelashes and look a bit insipid I thought. Nevertheless we went out a couple of times together and he wanted to buy me a new record, just released, called ‘Dance Ballerina, Dance’. Poor Joe, he didn’t really stand a chance with me. I hated this song so much that I wouldn’t let him buy me a copy, under any circumstances. Goodness knows why I didn’t just graciously accept his gift and never play it. Because of his insistence that I accept this gift of a stupid record, I gave him the brush off.
Anyway, I learned later from Bert that Joe had joined the Merchant Navy, jumped ship in Australia, and was doing very well as a sheep farmer. Just think: had I liked that rotten record, I might have turned out to be ‘Sheila the sheep-farmer’s wife’ in Australia!
To be cont…