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Sisters.  Many of us have one or more sisters.  Some have sisters and brothers.  Our relationship with our siblings go from very good to very bad and all the points in between.


I have one sister, Jane.  No brothers.  Jane is nearly eight years younger than me.  In our childhood, we didn’t have much of a relationship.  I wasn’t the older sister than doted on my baby sister. In fact I really don’t remember much about those early years with Jane.  Admittedly, we didn’t spend much time together.  When I was eight, I was off to boarding school.  I never really figured out why but I enjoyed boarding school.  My mother took me out of boarding school when I was around ten.  I spent a year or so at home and then I spent a couple of years living with my grandparents.


During this time I only have one vivid memory of Jane.  We had visited family friends who had a child about Jane’s age. The young friend had a toy piano which Jane really coveted.  After we left Mum said that Santa Clause would bring her one.  When Christmas came Mum searched high and low for a toy piano with no luck so she decided a small dinky bike would do.  Jane woke up and saw the dinky at the bottom of the bed and excitedly cried out “Look at my piano”.  It took us many weeks to convince her it wasn’t a piano.


When High School started I was back home and my school life and my school friends took over my life.  Jane was caught up with ballet classes and Irish dancing.


By the time Jane started High School I was working and dating and a new chapter in my life started.  I got married at 21.  Jane was a bridesmaid at my wedding.  From the tales I have heard since she enjoyed herself with my husband’s teenage siblings. 


Over the next twenty years we only caught up now and again.  Both travelled overseas and we never seemed to be at home together.  Mum wrote me all the news about Jane and then about her marriage to John.


When I was forty, my marriage broke up and I came back to Sydney to live with my youngest daughter Lulu.  Paul and the other girls stayed in New York.


Jane, at this stage was living on the north shore with her husband and baby daughter, Lizzie.  I spent a lot of time there enjoying Jane’s company and the pleasant suburban lifestyle.  Neighbors dropping in with their children.  Friday night “happy hours” for the women and the kids.


I would mostly sleep over and was always woken up in the early morning by three year old Lizzie.


Jane had another daughter, Jess shortly after I arrived.  I remember calling on her in hospital the morning after Jess was born.  I sneaked into her room and we shared a bottle of champagne at 11am in the morning.


During the next ten years there were lots of bonding and making up for lost time.  The kids were growing up and my daughters came back from overseas.  The family was devastated when John left Jane.  I was at work when Jane called.  It was too hard to believe.  But life goes on.


Now we are both over 70, Jane is important in my life.  We have just been on a holiday in Jane’s unit in the Gold Coast.  We spent most of the time together.  Having trips to the shopping malls, evening meals at nice restaurant.  Jane spent a few hours at the beach or pool, improving her perfect tan.  Me in her flat enjoying the views and the perfect peace.  Evenings were spent working out what DVD to watch.  It often took so long that when we finally settled on one, it was too late to start watching it.


It is so nice to have this relationship. It is interesting as Jane and I are quite different.  We try not to talk about politics or religion or immigration.  But there is plenty to talk about without having to get into difficult subjects.  We mostly get on together and hardly a day goes by without a phone call.


I am so happy I have a sister.



Sarah’s Dog Fifi

Maybe some of you have seen my daughter Sarah’s beautiful dog Fifi. I must tell you the background about Sarah’s dog.

When we were in living in Hong Kong, Sarah was about ten years old. A friend of mine was leaving her job as an assistant at the Canadian Embassy. She had a much loved white miniature poodle called Kimberley. Her replacement was a macho guy who didn’t think a little white poodle would do much for his reputation so asked her to find it another home.


“Please Mum, please”, said the ten year old Sarah.


‘I’ve always wanted a dog”, she pleaded.

I am not really a dog person but with pleading and a back up from her sisters, I gave in.


Kimberley was a rather cute dog and soon adapted to our two story terrace house in Happy Valley. Our amah was not too happy as the dog tended to enjoy biting her ankles. The other person who wasn’t happy was Sarah’s father. When he came home late at night (a reasonably constant situation), the dog was extremely vocal and generally let the whole house know. Good dog.


The household soon got used to the dog and Kimberly was Sarah’s constant companion. One day on a walk to the shop a young Chinese boy came up to her and demanded the dog. I am not sure exactly what happened but he took the dog and Sarah came home in tears.


We called the local police. A couple of hours later two  policemen turned up. I explained the situation and the older one said he wanted to ask Sarah some questions.


“What did the boy look like”, he asked. Sarah hesitated. To be a little helpful, the policeman tried to help. ‘”Was he dark or fair – just roughly “ the policeman said.


Sarah looked at him earnestly “Yes. Roughly.” Rather put off by this, the policeman took another tack. “Did he say something.”


“Yes”, said Sarah “He said it was for his sister”.

Just then, two year old Lulu decided to join the conversation and came forward and managed to knock over the policeman’s Coca cola. A slight delay in the proceedings while we tried to clean up the policeman’s white trousers.


He left soon after and said he would investigate the matter.

A couple of days later there was a knock at the door. I answered it and there was a teenage boy with Kimberly. He handed me the dog and a note and quickly ran off.

I read his note which said – I’ll try and remember – “Ï wanted the dog for my sister who used to see it when the girl took it for a walk. I just wanted to please her but I think that it was wrong to take the dog. I am sorry”


He ran off quickly.


We left Hong Kong a year later and “loaned” Kimberley to a friend.

I promised Sarah I would get her another poodle “one of these days”.


Time went on and then one day at a fundraising lunch in Bali, poodle breeder, Lizzie Love, came up the dais and announced that she had donated one of her puppies for auction. Rusty coloured delightful dog called Fifi was brought up with her beautiful father – an elegant white poodle. Sarah ran off and  picked up Fifi. They looked like they belonged together. I kept my promise and Sarah got her poodle. Admittedly, it took me forty years to get it for her.


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.

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.