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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.


Thoughts on getting older

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I was reading an article recently on what one woman thought of being “older”. It made me think about what it meant to me and here is the outcome of my thoughts on getting older.


“Older” is a rather interesting word. When we get to a certain age, we might feel we are getting older. Or maybe we are older than someone else (and that could refer to someone eight is older than someone six).


The World Health Organization describes it as someone who is over 45 which in this day and age is almost young. At 45 I was starting a new life and a second career. I worked fulltime until I was 70.


Now in my late seventies, I am beginning to feel “older”. You know you fit into this category when people in their fifties start standing up for you in the bus or train. I have to say these are mostly of the older type. Younger men and women generally don’t notice you at all. It’s not being rude – you become invisible.


I find that it is getting a little harder to get out of deep lounge chair. In fact, I really think twice about taking a seat at all if I might need to get out of it in a hurry. You certainly feel it when you wonder just how you are going manage to get up. Is it a matter of moving your bottom closer to the edge of the chair and then, hands on the side of the chair and raise yourself up to a standing position or is it hands either side of the chair and use your legs to push yourself to a standing position?.


Occasionally your friend will offer a hand to help you. You mentally hope you can manage with her only use one hand and does not have to revert to the two hand pulling method. I mentally note to keep standing while waiting for someone next time.


Getting on the bus can be a bit of problem as you attempt to hold onto the rail and pull yourself up the step, at the same time note that next time you take the bus that lowers the step that used for wheelchair and strollers.



It also nice when the butcher smiles benevolently when you ask for one chop and two sausages. A fellow older stranger understands when you start up a conversation at the bus stop. They know you live alone and probably haven’t spoken to anyone all day.


There are lots of advantages being “older”. Your ten-year-old grandchild understands that you can’t run for the bus so they will valiantly run and plead with the driver to hold the vehicle until their grandma makes it.


Grandchildren are a pleasure and love hearing about the days when you couldn’t take the phone with you when you left home for a trip to a friends place. ,Your parents didn’t know where you actually went as there was no way to check on our whereabouts. They also love to hear your stories about what their mother or father did when they were young. I know my granddaughters, Mimi and Ava loved to hear stories about Sarah’s misadventures.


Another thing I have noticed since getting older is, I notice babies and toddlers. While I have had four children and six grandchildren, I never really liked them until they got to the stage that we could have a conversation. Now I watch with pleasure a small child in their pram. I watch them enjoying the single grape their mother feeds them or the way they play with their toy. It could be that I never had the time to enjoy my young children. I now just sit and watch them. I am sorry that I missed that time with my children.


At Christmas you can feel quite comfortable after lunch to put your feet up on the couch to rest and nobody gives you looks like “why aren’t you helping.” I look back to Christmas years ago when everyone sat around after lunch laughing and talking and then set off home. I was left alone with the mess and the dishes…and a little lonely.


Yes, there are plenty of things I miss but there are also plenty of things, I don’t miss.


I am not sure that I am happy getting older but there are lots of advantages to enjoy.

The Miracle of the Lights

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New York….We were off to New York. Paul, my husband, got a job on a newspaper in New York. He flew off within a week and I was left to pack up and rent out our home in Sydney. The children had to leave their schools and me my job. We took a large Greek ship to New York, a five week trip

When we arrived, Paul had found us a temporary apartment in Tarrytown a seventy minute train trip from Manhattan. Tarrytown was a very pretty suburban town in upstate New York. Like many suburban towns a car was a prerequisite. Public transport (except for a train to the city) was non existent. As our finances were pretty low and we were planning to buy a house close to the city in a place called Hoboken in New Jersey, we did not want to spend money on a car. A friend of Paul’s offered us an old and dilapidated Kombi van which he used for his annual shooting trip. He was more than happy having it used and garaged for the duration of our stay in suburbia.

I was rather hesitant at driving this large vehicle, especially as I was not used to driving on the wrong side of the road. I did manage to take us to Manhattan one day which certainly boosted my confidence.

One afternoon in midwinter, I took the children to the local township for some shopping and hot chocolate. As we left, I realised I was facing the wrong way to go home. The traffic was heavy as the workers were coming home so I thought I would make a turn at the next street and it would. bring me back to the main street facing the right direction. No, it didn’t. I found it went further and further out of town and I was in the middle of a traffic jam with a slow snake of traffic trying to make it to somewhere. I also realised that the darkness with coming in very quickly and I remembered that the lights didn’t work.

I tried to keep the children in a good spirit and not to have them start the usual “are we there yet?”. I didn’t like to tell them that I had no idea where “there” was and if we would ever get “there” I hopefully turned the lights on. Took a deep breath and nothing happened. It was still late dusk so I would see where we were going and hoped that I would notice something familiar and we would be home. The traffic was still creeping along.

All of a sudden I noticed the car in front was lit up. It couldn’t be, it was. The light had somehow turned on. I figured that I would somehow find our way home in time as long as we could see our way. We got home about fifteen minutes later and turned off the lights when we parked the car. The lights never came on again although I made sure we were never out at night. A miracle? I still wonder.

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.

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.