All Posts By thelifeivelived_rj3r0t

A Place To Call Home

Throughout our lives, many of us have lived in one or two homes and others – many houses. Some small and some large. I have been lucky (although many will say unlucky) that I have lived in many houses in six different countries over the past fifty plus years. .

I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney until I was married. My home was a typical for the 50s. A three bedroom fibro house on a quarter acre block. The bathroom and laundry attached to the back of the house.

When I was first married I moved to Melbourne with my new husband who was working there. We lived in a small “bedsit”, as they were called in those days in the mid fifties. We loved our little home across from the Melbourne Cricket Ground and close to Melbourne city.

When my husband was transferred back to Sydney, we rented a two bedroom flat in Rose Bay.

Over the next fifty years, there were many homes. A recent count, they numbered 34. Included were a large apartment on the 22ndfloor overlooking Hong Kong Harbour, a small Japanese house with tatami floors to a large four floor brownstone home in New Jersey. We – my husband and four children always managed to enjoy our homes big and small. We always managed to live with the space we had. After my husband died and the children all grew up and found their own homes, I lived in a small small apartments for many years until I retired.

I then made the rather bold decision to move to Bali to live with my daughter. I sold, loaned, and stored all my possessions. I packed two suitcases and left for Bali in 2008. It was paradise for awhile until I had a yearning to come back to Sydney to be with other family members and friends.

The problem was I had very little money and lived on a pension. With difficulties, I was fortunate enough to obtain a small studio apartment in a retirement village. Close to the city and near my children.  The location was ideal. But, and there is always a but, could I live in a virtual one room space.

As I didn’t really have a choice I decided to take it and starting looking at the space for all my needs. After spending some time on the internet looking at “how to decorate a small space”, I got the idea of what to do.

Left in the apartment was a bed (albeit a single one) in a alcove partitioned off from the rest of the space by a wall of built-in storage. This gave me sufficient space for my clothes (after a large culling exercise).

I also had a reasonable size bathroom. Fortunately, gateleg table and four chairs, a two seater couch, and a coffee table remained in the house. I jettisoned an ugly TV table. There was a small kitchen and a good sized bathroom. The kitchen had a refrigerator and stove.

Now it was off to Ikea with my daughter, Lulu. Firstly, two eight-holed bookcases. Put on their side against two walls in one corner, they gave me room for storage and the TV was put across the corner. I moved the couch to the middle of the room facing the TV and a old coffee table gave me a small lounge area.

Behind the couch I placed a bookcase and a small desk for my computer and papers. This was the study area. In the corner near the front door, I placed the table with one side down and used the two chairs. This can be the dining area when I get around to entertaining. One chair was used with the desk and the other made do next to the bed to be used as a bedside table.

Fortunately I was able to rescue some art works that I had “loaned” to my children, friends and relatives when I left.

Now after a few months I have settled in and am enjoying my home. Yes it is small and a tight fit but I have every thing I need and am very comfortable. I have to make sure I do not buy anything. I have to be firm when my well meaning children and friends want to get me things. It took awhile to figure out where to put things like the iron (I had to forgo the ironing board and use a blanket on the table like my mum used to use). I try to shop every couple of days to get small amounts of food. That bargain large bag of oranges are certainly cheap but where will they go.

On the plus side, It is easy to keep clean and doing the housework takes a couple of hours at the most. Living in a small retirement complex with 32 other retirees gives me security and a sense of belonging. Coming and. going there is always a someone to speak to or a cheery hallo.

Friends and relatives drop in but I don’t feel as I have to invite them for dinner.

I certainly don’t have a desire to move into a large house again. Maybe I wouldn’t mind an extra room but it’s really not essential. So don’t backout if you have the opportunity to get your own small home. Enjoy it.


Home to me is a place to live and spend our spare time and sleep at night.  It is not a possession or a showcase to impress neighbours, friends and family.

During my lifetime, I have lived in more than thirty four homes.  Some small, some large.  I never thought that they were mine.  They were somewhere that was safe, secure, big enough for the family.  As I travelled around the world, I have discovered that in many cultures, home can be much smaller that what is considered normal in Australia or other western countries. In Japan, for instance, their homes are very small.  Their living room doubles as the bedroom.  The floors are made of tatami which is made from straw with woven straw cover.  It is quite spongy.  In the evening the folding table and low chairs are folded up and their mattresses which role up are taken out of a cupboard and laid on the floor.  In the morning they are rolled up again and the room prepared for the day activities.  It saves so much space – and cost. In many Indonesian homes, it is the normal habit for the younger children sleep with the parents and then when they get older, children sleep three or even four to a bed.  Indonesian children do not like sleeping alone.  Some orphanages  are criticised  when visitors come by and see the children sleeping in beds together.  They often want to donate bunk beds for the children and get upset when their donation is refused.

During my lifetime – so far – occupying a house (be that an apartment, rental house or a house that we bought and had a mortgage to pay), has often been a challenge.  This has often been when we moved from one country to a new one.  We usually had to leave furniture behind and get rid of a lot of our possessions so we arrived with basic things and very little money to go out and buy the things which are essential for living.  If we were lucky we managed to have some things shipped but they didn’t arrive until a later date.  But these things were what made our home.  For me they were art works and books, for the children maybe some toys or other special things they liked.

When we travelled overseas we mostly travelled by ship.  In those days around the sixties and seventies, it was cheaper than flying.  It also gave us some time for my husband, Paul to go ahead and fine a place for us to live and to settle into his new job.

Travelling by ship often meant a trip of two weeks to five, which happened when we went from Sydney to New York. Our cabin was mostly a five berth on the lower levels of the ship.  It became our “home” to the children while we were on the ship and if one of them waned to go to their cabin, they would always refer to it as home – not where we came from or where we were going.

A new home was always a challenge.  Beds were the first essential.  These were often rented, loaned or bought.  Slowly we got the others essentials and eventually we had enough to make a home.  New friends and neighbours were always helpful.  When we arrived in New York in the middle of winter, a neighbour came over and said she had a pile of kids winter clothes which we collected at the end of each year.  These were warm coats, hats, scarves, boots that children had grown out of.  In no time my children were outfitted for the freezing weather.  The same with school uniforms.

On our first night in New York, my husband had met us when our boat arrived in Florida.  We had a late plane ride to New York arriving at 3am.  He told us he had rented an apartment in Tarrytown about seventy minutes from Manhattan. We got a rented station wagon for the trip from the airport.  He neglected to tell us that he hasn’t been there but assured us that his friends who had lived there said it would be great and that it was furnished etc.  We arrived at 4.30am, found the apartment without much difficulty and dragged some suitcases.   All was great except the electricity had been cut off.  We waited a few minutes for our eyes to become used to the darkness and we could make out he layout with the light from the street lights outside.

We found some beds and couches, dragged some clothes from the suitcases and settled into the cold apartment for morning to come.

Next morning, after we researched the layout and worked out where everyone would sleep, we had to travel and find a supermarket to get something for breakfast and food for the weekend.  The children enjoyed the snowy landscape and the excited by huge supermarket with exciting new cereals to try.

The electricity was soon put on and we discovered the apartment was short of one bed but Sarah, our eldest daughter was happy with the couch.  An afternoon trip to Manhattan to return the rented station wagon was wonderful with all the buildings and busy streets.  After our trip, everyone was glad when we got “home” to our new apartment.

Risk Taking

Sometimes taking a risk is something that you prepare for. Often, it is physical such as jumping out of a plane or climbing to the top of high mountain. Sometimes it is something that you hope will improve your life and give you and your family the opportunity to experience other ways of living.

I had lived my early life in a very secure household, knowing what was going to happen each day, each week and in fact each year. Very little happened that wasn’t planned. Even our yearly holidays was a small holiday house on the central coast about two hours from our home. I always dreamed of far a way countries and experiencing how people in other countries lived.

When I was first married, life looked as though it was going to be much the same. At first, it was. A nice apartment in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Paul, my husband, off to work each day, few years later we had three young daughters and the eldest was at school. Much as I loved my life as a wife and a mother, I hated being a housewife.

One day Paul came home and said he had been offered a job with a newspaper in Canberra and we would be given a house there. He would be working in as a political journalist. Suddenly my life changed. After we moved, there were diplomatic parties to go to, political events to attend, I felt I was given a new lease of life.

A year or two there, Paul said he had seen an advertisement for journalists to work in a new English language paper in Hong Kong. At first, I was a little worried, giving up a good job for a rather risky job on a new newspaper. There were problem in Hong Kong from the difficulties with communist China but a couple of Paul’s friends were also going and I was excited by the prospect. Hell, why not!

We sold our furniture and other possessions, Paul left for Hong Kong and we – myself and three children – moved into my parents home in Sydney to leave on a ship leaving three weeks later. Despite the crowded living with my parents and sister in a weatherboard three bedroom, we managed and my parents enjoyed having us there for a few weeks.

Two days after Paul left, I got a letter from him to say it was a mistake. The Chinese were leaving bombs around Hong Kong, and it was expected that there might be other attacks soon. Bodies were floating down the river from China and nobody had any idea what was happening. It was what was known as the Cultural Revolution. Mao Si Tong was cleaning China. The bombs were neatly wrapped in brown paper and put throughout Hong Kong each day in strategic positions to disrupt the traffic. Some were real bombs and some were not. but each time one mysteriously appeared, everything around stopped and the bomb squad called. It could take one or two hours until they were cleared and life went back to normal.  Occasionally, There bomb went off and had terrible outcomes with people killed.

Paul, was concerned and suggested that maybe we should go to Canada instead.

My parents were horrified. My mother was concerned for our safety and my father was sure Paul had left me and Dad was stuck and me and the children. Despite phone calls over the next few weeks nothing had been resolved. Things were getting very tense at home. My money was running out. Eventually my dad said that that I had a month to either go to Hong Kong or anywhere but I had to leave the house.

I wanted to go to Hong Kong. I rang the various shipping companies and found two ships going to Hong Kong in the few weeks. One I could afford, but I was $100 short on the other one which was leaving in a few days. My mother who was really concerned said that she would give me the money but not to tell my dad.

I decided not to tell Paul because he would say don’t come, to wait awhile. I felt if I arrived there (it was a four week trip via Japan and Taiwan) and he had left, I would somehow find a way to come back and if he hadn’t then we could stay for awhile until he decided what to do. Whatever happened, I would have sailed out of Sydney Harbour and had been overseas.

We rushed around and packed for the trip. Various friends found me “tropical” clothes to wear on the ship. I figured we had $1 a day to spend and $10 a port. This was 1967 so I learned we could have two drinks each day and a trip at each port. It wasn’t going to be easy but we could do it. My friends gave me a few extra dollars as a goodbye gift so we were fine. There was still a little worry about Paul but I figured it was worth the risk

The first night on board, I put the kids to bed and the Chinese cabin steward assured me that would be ok and he would come and get me if there was a problem. I went up to the lounge, bought a beer and settled into listening to the band and started reading my book. An officer came over and asked me if I would like to dance.

Next morning, the children were in the Children’s playroom. I went along to the morning tea being served on the desk. This was fun. This was going to great. There was an announcement on the loud speaker. “Would Mrs Dougherty come along to the reception desk, please” Suddenly, I was not so sure.

There was a cable for me. I opened it. Somebody, probably my father, had contacted Paul. I read it. “Welcome aboard. See you in Hong Kong, Love Paul.” It was worth taking the risk. We stayed in Hong Kong for four years.

A Dream is Realised

Lulu is the youngest of my four daughters. Her real name is Lucy Matilda. The Lucy became Lulu from her three older sisters calling her Lu and it quickly became Lulu. She was called Matilda as her second name after the hospital she was born in Hong Kong, where we were living.

Lulu was born five years after my third daughter and it was often thought she was an accident child, but in fact, while not exactly planned she completed my dream of having four daughters. I had loved the novel “Little Women”. It is the story of a woman in the southern USA who was bring up her four daughters while her husband was fighting in Civil War. To me growing up, I always thought that it was the ideal family.

After having three daughters in three years, I began to think that maybe four children was a bit much, especially since we had moved to Hong Kong and I was able to go back to work and had two amah’s looking after the house and the children. But, I still dreamt of that fourth daughter. One day. I realised I was pregnant. Looking at the problems associated, I realised that this was a great place to have another child as I could get a Baby Amah (as nannies were called there) and still continue my career.

While I was hoping for my fourth daughter, my husband Paul was sure that this was the boy he had always wanted.

I continued working at my job as Managing Editor of the “Far East Asia Medical Journal” with the house running well with the amah’s looking after the children and the household chores.

I was not sure exactly when my baby was due as those things were not as an exact science as they are now. My male boss ignored my growing tummy, so I thought I would too and stay at work until I felt the need to stop.

Christmas 1968 came and went and I was back at work feeling that something must happen soon. Just as I put the finishing touches to another issue of the magazine, I was about to leave for home when I realised my waters had broke. Not knowing exactly what to do, I waited until most of the staff had left for the day and I slowly walked out of my office on the 19th floor of a major office block in central Hong Kong.

Before I left, I called my husband whose office was only a couple of blocks from mine. His secretary said that he had left for the squash courts and she wasn’t sure of the number there. I thanked her and left the office to find a taxi. It was 5.30 and there was, what seemed to be most of the workers of Hong Kong moving out of their offices. I some how found a vacant taxi and realised I had one of the taxi drivers that didn’t know any English, but at least he knew where the Matilda Hospital was. I remembered that a Chinese friend had written in Chinese “Take me to Matilda Hospital at the Peak. Quickly. I am having a baby”.

Somehow, we made it as the extremely scared driver fought his way through the traffic jams. We made it in record time.

Lulu was eventually born two days later. And I got my dream family of four daughters.