A letter to my baby sister – A stormy arrival

Hey Margo

It was December 1960 and we welcomed you to our world; a squirmy bundle of rage and spirit born into a divided family. Probably the last thing this family needed was another child, but somehow your appearance seemed to heal some wounds.

I may not have been the most caring big brother when Terry was born, but you were different; I don’t think an eight-year-old boy could have loved his little sister more than I loved you.

I don’t know what madness dictated that in early 1961 just weeks after you were born, we would embark on one of our irregular holidays to the South Coast with hired caravan in tow and the old army tent stowed to accommodate Terry and I.

I am not sure why Steven, Chloe and Jerry were spared this jaunt into happy families but I am certain there was just the three of us children plus Mum and Dad.

The trip across to the Coast in those days was a series of stops to ensure the car would not over heat with the weight of the caravan behind it and traversing the Mountains; was always an adventure. I am not sure what was worse; the slow winding up the mountains or the constant push of the van to rush us down the other side with brakes screaming blue murder, hairpin bends looming ominously and car sickness just a gulp away.

We would set off well before dawn and it would be very late in the afternoon before we would pull into the caravan park and begin the setting up of the van and the tent.

Invariably in our family, there would be a loud argument at some stage of these proceedings and it was a lucky kid who managed to make the trip without getting boxed round the ears as the heat and frustration at the slow progress took its toll.

I think you were pretty well behaved but having a very small baby along certainly did not enhance the journey and by the time we arrived I think everyone was at the end of their respective tethers.

The van and tent was eventually set up after the regulation tantrums and our holiday was in place, Terry and I took you in the stroller for a walk along the beach, Dad took the car to go and buy fish and chips for dinner while Mum made up your formula or whatever it was that you had at that time.

My memory of this holiday was that there was less tension in the air than usual and Dad, as was his wont, quickly made acquaintances with other farming families who had escaped the heat and dust for a few days by the beach.

I think these holidays were always harder on Mum,she did not easily make casual friendships and, given her budding artistic side; probably did not have a lot in common with most of the other farming wives.

We had had a few days at the beach and my pale Scottish skin was rubbed raw with sunburn and blisters before the itchiness infected Dad and he made arrangements with a few others to have a day at the Berry Artificial Insemination farm.

The men set off early one morning and we spent a day on the beach with Mum before coming back for a rest late in the afternoon.

The clouds gathered as we were walking back and soon, the sky was an ominous black  void full of foreboding. The rain came in sheets followed by a fierce wind which tore at anything loose, soon the sanctuary of the caravan was shattered as the wind rocked it back and forth before finally tipping it on to the sturdy centre pole of the old army tent.

Mum, Terry and I made a mad dash for the brick toilet block with you, wrapped as much as possible   against the wind and rain. I looked forlornly at our van, skewered in the side by the pole with chairs and book and clothes being tossed devilishly by the surging wind.

There was no sign of Dad and we were crammed into the small laundry shower / block with a host of other women and kids, the wind was screaming around our ears and the rain was driving sideways in great slants of water.

Finally, it all subsided and Dad was back. They had called in to have a drink and the excuse was that the verandah of the Pub had come crashing down and they could not leave; so criticism was reluctantly muted.

Now we had a caravan with a hole in the side but otherwise things packed up pretty well and the holiday passed without any further incident.

You certainly knew how to announce your arrival darling and nothing much has changed since!!

Love Ya

Bruce

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