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Michael & Annette



I was two and a half years of age when my mother and I moved back to Alice Springs. After the war, my father became the rector of Alice Springs. So I lived in Alice Springs for a couple of years and I can still remember some of it. I remember I stuck my fingers in a power point and got some sort of a shock. I felt as though I was off the ground. Anyway, that was no issue, I pulled my fingers out and lived on. And another memory is that I had a little friend called Ernie. He was a little bit older than me, and he used to scale up a sapling and pull the Witchetty grubs out. He would bring them down and light a little tiny fire, roast the Witchetty grubs over the fire and we would eat them. And I can still remember the taste, a nutty taste of these horrible things. I wouldn't eat them now.


We didn't have the feeling that we were wealthy. But I think we were like probably an average family of the 1950s when I look back. But I do remember some things, like you would never walk home in the rain with your shoes on because your leather shoes would get ruined. So you'd take them off, and your socks, and put them around your neck, under your raincoat if you had one to preserve them so that they didn't get wet. Nobody minded because we were all walking through the gutter. Everyone was doing it you know, walking through the gutters and the rain.


And we always had huge Christmases, of all the family gathering. I mean huge Christmases, great long tables. And my grandfather would be there at the end of the table. He was a gorgeous man. And then television came, and there was a program called Six O'clock Rock and it was on the ABC, and if ever we were there, we'd be allowed to watch it with him. And he would roll around the couch laughing at all these people doing the twist.


When I was at school at Timbertop, was the best year of my school life. There were about 120 of us at the school. We were all in the same classes, we were all the same age -about 13, 14 and we lived out in the bush. And at weekends we used to be hunted outta school, with a backpack, a tent, a sleeping bag and some food. We would camp out from Friday through till Sunday afternoon. And then at the end of each term, we used to have four days when the staff at the school were marking our exam papers, we would go off into the wilderness. The longest walk we did was 30 miles a day for four days. 120 miles with 20 pound packs through the mountains of Northeast Victoria. It was fabulous! We would walk until it was well and truly dark. We would stop, have something to eat, then in the morning we would wake up, we'd cook some porridge on a fire, eat that, and then walk all day, except we'd stop at lunchtime for a little bit of chocolate.


And in those days there was an organisation in the Red Cross called the Voluntary Aid Detachment. It was set up during the First World War where aristocratic women and so on, were helpers in the wards. And of course there was all this fear about atomic warfare so they still had much of these sort of voluntary groups where we learnt home nursing and first aid, and we worked in hospitals. The job I used to love the most was going to the adoption ward. There’d be a trolley full of babies and you'd walk them around and nurse them and feed them. And so I joined the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment and I was there from about 16 and a half to 24, something like that. And I loved it, really loved it. I got sent to Melbourne at one stage to train in atomic warfare -what would happen, what we would have to do and all that sort of thing, because it was still such a threat, you know.


I knew when I first met her. In fact, we were having a function at my parents' place one night, having a few drinks and a few nibbles. There must have been probably 15 people there. And I said to my mate, I said, “The one I go and kiss is the one I'm going to marry”. So I went ahead and I gave her a kiss.


I liked a lot of things about her. I liked the way she communicated. For instance, I got the job of driving her up to Orange to get a plane or something at one stage, and we had 35 minutes to chat. And I don't think either of us stopped talking for the whole 35 minutes. That was just before I went back to college and we kept writing to each other. I'd spend more time writing to her than I did my theology. Anyway, I'd go off taxi driving during the vacation periods in Sydney, and she would sometimes come down and we'd meet and so on.


We like it here and I think internally there's peace as well. Because I think all those things that you might have done, you come to grips with, and you look at all the things that have happened. And I mean, when you can say you've got two amazing children and two great son-in-laws and all the things that have emanated from that, you can't be anything but thankful, can you?



We've finished with the travel, mainly because we find it difficult getting on and off planes. But I mean, we’ve had 26 overseas trips. And in 1985, I couldn’t believe that we had had such a wonderful trip, and if we’d never been overseas again, that would’ve been okay. But all this other stuff came along and we went. We had a cup full and it was fantastic, and we can still dream about it. And the memory’s still good enough to dream about it.

Michael & Annette excerpt
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