My Bon Scott by Irene Thornton – Extract

PROLOGUE

I met a prominent politician a few years ago. At least, I tried to meet him. He was a friend of my friend Andrea, an independent senator who fought for ordinary working people, and I really admired him. I’m going to shake his hand, I thought. It took a bit of nerve because I’m not the most confident person, particularly in crowds.

We were at Andrea’s 60th birthday party at her home in Adelaide, surrounded by party guests, and half of them had the same idea as me. I needed an introduction but Andrea wasn’t around, so I hovered nearby with a drink in my hand, looking like a spare part. Nice to meet you, I rehearsed in my head, I just wanted to say . . .

While I hovered, I pretended I was engrossed in a photograph on Andrea’s wall. It was a picture of me, taken 40 years earlier, photocopied and hung limply with a single piece of Blu-Tack. It was a photo of my ex and me on our wedding day, two young kids in funny seventies clothing. I’d seen it a thousand times before. Anyway, I wasn’t really paying attention to the picture. I was listening to the senator and waiting for an opportunity to introduce myself (hoping I didn’t look like I was just standing around, waiting for an opportunity to introduce myself).

I was about to give up on the whole thing when the woman the politician had been talking to left the room. Right, here goes, I thought. I turned, reached out my hand and the word ‘hello’ was just forming in my mouth when a young guy leapt in between us. The senator was startled because the young man was very pissed, very excited and talking very loudly.

‘Hey, tell me something!’ he said to me, eyes wide. ‘That’s you, isn’t it? That’s you!’

He was pointing at the picture on the wall. ‘Yeah, long time ago,’ I mumbled.

‘And that’s . . .?’ he shouted, pointing at my ex.

I laughed at him and shook my head in embarrassment, colour creeping into my cheeks. The kid was nearly beside himself. The politician was looking at the photo with a confused expression on his face.

‘Go on, say it!’ the guy pressed. ‘Say it, go on!’ I sighed and smiled.

‘That’s Bon Scott,’ I replied.

‘Bon Scott!’ the kid shouted, and turned to the senator to yell drunkenly in his face. ‘She was married to Bon Scott!’

The young guy was over the moon but I was mortified. The politician was still standing beside us, but my window of opportunity had closed. The kid had a lot of questions and he wasn’t going away until I’d answered them – all of them, every single one.

It wasn’t the first time something like that had happened to me, but it was always strange when it did. I told a girl- friend about it later and she was delighted.

‘You know, there are more people in the world who know about Bon than about your beloved senator,’ she laughed.

‘Sure, but I’m not Bon,’ I replied. ‘I’m Bon Scott’s wife. Or I was Bon Scott’s wife, 40 years ago.’

‘The kid was just jogging your memory,’ she said. I laughed at her and shook my head.

As if I could ever forget.

 PART ONE

THERE are 2000 kilometres between Adelaide and Perth, but I don’t think much else separates them. Bon Scott grew up in the suburbs of a hot, remote

Australian city surrounded by long, white beaches. My suburbs were very similar to his. As Australian kids growing up in the fifties and sixties, we were isolated from the rest of the world. It was beamed in on our black-and-white television sets; we heard about it on the radio and in the cinema, but it was still very far away. The real world didn’t extend much beyond your front door, not back then. The real world was dry lawns, Hills Hoists and a roast dinner on Sundays.

I was born in Port Pirie in 1950, a country town on the South Australian coast about two hours drive from Adelaide. It was a dusty place – home to a smelting plant, a gritty shell beach and a few faded weatherboard houses.

My parents were Port Pirie people, born and bred: simple, honest, and in my dad’s case, slightly down in the mouth. ‘If I’ve got enough money, would you like to go out to the pictures on Saturday?’ he had asked Mum.

She said yes as an act of kindness. Later, she told me she had always liked men with dark, curly hair. Dad was blond, but he convinced her to marry him anyway. He was a good man.

Mum had worked in her parents’ corner store but she gave that up to be a housewife while Dad went to work as a draftsman. They had a son, my older brother, Peter, when Dad went off to fight in the war. When he came home again, a bit worse for wear, he and Mum had three more kids, my sister Kathleen, my sister Fay and me. Kathleen was the eldest girl, I was the middle child with sunny blonde hair and Fay was the baby. I called Fay my little blister (instead of my sister) because she was always tagging along behind me, driving me nuts.

Port Pirie was too small for a growing family so Dad cast his line a bit further afield and snagged a job in Adelaide. When I was four or five, we moved to the big city – or the bigger city, at least. Adelaide was impressive compared to Port Pirie, but it was no gleaming metropolis. Even when the population climbed over a million, people still called it Australia’s largest country town. To me, it felt like one endless suburb: picket fence after picket fence, as far as the eye could see.

My family lived in a red-brick Californian bungalow, with a long, shady porch out front. Towards the back of the house were two bedrooms and a third makeshift room, which was closed off with a curtain hanging from a piece of string. We were sardined into the place, but it was generally pretty comfortable, except in summer. When it was too hot, we slept on the fl in the hallway or on a blanket out on the front lawn. We weren’t very well-off, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. My life seemed pretty ordinary.

I remember what most Australians remember about their childhood: running under the sprinkler in the baking January heat; heading off on long adventures on my bike. I was a happy little kid, with a fringe and pigtails and nice clothes to wear to church on Sundays. I played tennis and netball, and I really loved to read, mostly English adventure novels and Archie comics. I was a bit of a dreamer. Irene spends too much time staring out of the window, my school reports read, but she is very polite and courteous. I was good at English but terrible at arithmetic, no matter how much help my father gave me with my homework.

After school, I skipped rope and played in the vacant church tennis courts with other kids from the neighbourhood, drew on the footpath in chalk and raced paper boats down storm drains. On the weekends, or when I was lucky enough to have a day off school, Mum took me to the matinee session at the local movie theatre. I had stars in my eyes, the way little girls do. I collected old magazines with black-and-white pictures of Hollywood legends, like Jean Harlow, Audrey Hepburn and Clark Gable. To me, they were no different from the characters in fairy tales.

When you live in a small world, people take their cues from their neighbours, not reality TV. If my father painted the house, the house up the road would be painted a week later, and people noticed if you didn’t mow the lawn regularly. On the other hand, we actually spent time with our neighbours. They were our closest friends. On Friday nights, my whole family would climb through a hole in the fence to watch television with the lady next door and half the time the kids would fall asleep on the lino under the table, or propped up against the couch, while the adults drank beer and ate biscuits and talked. It wasn’t particularly exciting but it was the only life we knew.

My dad passed away when I was ten. My brother, Peter, had moved back to Port Pirie to study metallurgy and work at the smelting plant, so Mum was left with three girls to raise on a war widows’ pension. My father’s death was a shock and it made me quite introverted, and being introverted in my early teens made me a bit uncertain socially. I became quite a nervous person, and second-guessed myself a lot, but it all happened inside my head. On the surface, I stuck my chin out and had a serious independent streak.

Our family struggled, but we got by. It took Mum a long while to get over Dad’s death and even longer to get her sense of humour back, but she focused on her kids and found a way to carry on. Dinner was always on the table at six (the vegetables had usually been boiling since three) and our clothes were always clean and ironed. Mum was very simple and very good, though she loved a bit of slapstick. She sat in bed every night eating an apple and reading the Bible, but good luck if you bumped your head on a kitchen cupboard – Mum would be too busy laughing to bandage you up.

Kathleen was quite glamorous as a teenager, honey blonde and attractive with big bones and big curves, and plenty of interest from the boys. She was the polar opposite of me. I was a waif, standing off to one side of the schoolyard, lost in my thoughts. The one thing we had in common was art. Kathleen was a very talented illustrator and when I was still young she let me tag along to her Saturday art classes at a nearby technical college. I loved to draw – I got the gift from my dad who did amazing illustrations. I wasn’t particularly good at painting but I drew really excellent cartoons, and once I’d got into the habit of doing them I never stopped. Throughout my life, whenever someone bothered me or made me laugh with a particular quirk, I drew a caricature of them. It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve captured someone perfectly, especially if they have a unique character. I drew a lot of pictures of Bon over the years.

I loved music, even as a kid. The radio was always on at home and I always had a song in my head, tunes from the forties and fifties that my mother adored. The old songs still come back to me – Jim Reeves and Kitty Lester, ‘(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do’ by Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry and ‘A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation’ by Marty Robbins. I’ll start humming them to myself over the dishes, half a century later.

But my life really changed when I heard The Beatles. ‘Love Me Do’ came out when I was twelve and I adored it. They had such a radically different sound, with such beautiful harmonies, that a line was drawn between them and everything that had come before. The Beatles were the first musicians I really knew and loved, and the first band that belonged to me instead of my mum. When they came to Adelaide in 1964, I went into the city to see them. I was too young to go to the concert, but I took a bus into town and stood in a sea of screaming kids while the Fab Four came out and waved at us from the hotel balcony, little specks in the distance. It’s hard to explain how strange the experience was. The world of Elvis and The Beatles and British rock was a million miles away from my front lawn, but suddenly they were right there, in Adelaide. It was the first time I felt like that distant world had a real, three-dimensional shape – if I could just get close enough, I could actually reach out and touch them. Add to that the screaming hysteria of a few thousand young fans and you can imagine the impression the experience made on my tiny little brain.

I saw my first live band about a year later at the scout hall around the corner from my house. They were called The Silhouettes and they played Beatles covers, plus songs by The Animals and The Troggs, and other great bands of that era. The sheer volume of it really blew my mind; they must have been playing on crappy little PA systems, but the music was still louder than I’d ever heard it before. People were dancing, too, which was just incredible. It was like stepping onto a different planet.

A lot of kids went out to see bands play in the sixties, so I was hardly unusual, but I was probably a bit more dedicated than your average teen. Shows were advertised on posters and on the radio, and I’d catch buses to go and see them, trekking out to the suburbs or into the city. It was an amazing time for music in Adelaide; there were clubs, halls and venues all over the place and some of the biggest Australian bands of the era were based in my hometown. Glenn Shorrock played in The Twilights and they were huge; I saw them play all the time. The Masters Apprentices was another local act, although they called themselves The Mustangs and played surf-rock tunes by The Shadows back then. I used to watch them perform in coffee lounges, which were shitty little places that sold toasted sandwiches, fruit juice and what must have been the world’s worst coffee.

When I got older I saw bands play in pubs, but in the early days it was all very innocent. Sober teenagers filed into the hall, danced, clapped politely and left. But I thought it was really cool. I was impressed with how the people at gigs dressed; they seemed far more fashion- able than the kids at school. The girls wore miniskirts and the boys wore button-up shirts and stovepipe pants, and turtlenecks when they came in style. I loved clothes almost as much as I loved music and I enjoyed dressing up to go out, in outfits stitched together on Mum’s old sewing machine. As I got older, I added a ton of black eye makeup and red lipstick, which ended up smeared all over Mum’s towels at the end of the night. My poor long-suffering mother never complained, and she didn’t bat an eyelid no matter how short my skirts got.

‘You look lovely, dear,’ she’d say meekly. ‘Just don’t swear, because it spoils the way you look.’

My fashion sense, like the music I loved, was imported from overseas. There were loads of great Australian bands but hardly any of them were playing original music – the guys who picked up guitars in the mid-sixties were still trying to imitate their idols; they hadn’t even considered competing with them. Australia was just an outpost for the British music scene, connected to Mother England via the ‘Ten-pound Poms’. In Adelaide especially, which had a huge ex-pat community in the outer suburb of Elizabeth, English–Australian kids with relatives back home brought the latest fashion and music from the UK and transplanted it in our backyards.

I’d see them riding the long, flat Adelaide roads on motorised scooters, in their three-piece suits and anoraks, looking totally out of place. In England, they would have been called Mods. They had a huge influence on Australian rock ’n’ roll.

Bon Scott’s family was Scottish, but they came to Australia with the rest of the Ten-pound Poms, as part of an assisted passage scheme to encourage British migration to Australia in the post-war years. Their tickets cost ten pounds apiece, which was a very cheap way into the lucky country. A land of sunshine and opportunity was waiting for anyone with a tenner in their pocket – it just happened to be at the arse end of the universe.

Bon was six when the Scott family migrated, landing in Melbourne before resettling in Perth. Bon’s father, Chick, had moved them for much the same reason my dad moved us; he was restless after the war. Australia had a booming economy and land to spare, including plenty of land where the Scott boys could run wild. There was Bon
(born Ronald Belford Scott on 9 July 1946), Derek (three years younger) and Graeme (born 1953), and the three of them needed a lot of room to grow.

The family settled in Fremantle, an old port at the mouth of the Swan River, and Bon and his brothers became little fish, disappearing to the river whenever they could, launch- ing themselves off tree branches and stuffing around in the water. They rode their bikes, played sports and read comic books; they made friends with kids in the neighbourhood, got into scrapes and found ways to entertain themselves without video games or smartphones. When it was hot, they went to the beach. When they were bored, they went looking for adventure. According to his mum, Isa, Bon was a very social kid and she often had to drag him away from friends just to get him to the house for dinner.

Like me, Bon didn’t excel at school, although he probably didn’t try as hard as I did. From when he was a toddler in Scotland, marching through the streets of Kirriemuir with the local pipe band, his mission in life was clear. He was going to be a musician. He played the drums on whatever he could find, whether it was Isa’s pots or the breadbox. He wanted to learn piano, but he wouldn’t go to the lessons, so Chick bought him an accordion and Bon gave that a try (it wasn’t nearly loud enough). His parents finally relented and traded the accordion for a drum kit and all of a sudden Bon’s talent took off. He joined the Scots Club pipe band in Fremantle and played the drum alongside his father, and became a novice champion in drumming at the tender age of twelve. He wore a kilt and played traditional Scottish music right up until he turned seventeen.

Bon was a few years older than me. He fell in love with rock ’n’ roll in the late fifties, with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. The image of the rock ’n’ roll rebel stuck with him, and it went hand-in-hand with his own teenage antics. Bon was a working-class kid in a rough port town; he started to smoke, he roamed in a gang and he learned how to fight. He dropped out of school when he was fifteen and spent nine months in a boys’ prison when he was sixteen (for stealing petrol and some other minor offences). When he left prison, Bon got some tattoos. He was a tough young man by then. He didn’t play in a rock ’n’ roll band until he was almost nineteen, but he was already living a rock ’n’ roll life.

The British Invasion was well and truly underway when Bon joined his first band, a covers act called The Spektors. Like everyone else, they were dazzled by The Beatles and then floored by The Rolling Stones, and they did their best to imitate their heroes, but they were a teenybop- per band. They played crowd-pleasing, unsophisticated music and tried their best to look cute. And that was enough. In the year they were together, The Spektors built a decent following on the Perth dance hall circuit. Then in 1966, they merged with their local rivals, The Winstons, to become The Valentines. Bon took co-lead singer duties with The Winstons’ singer, Vince Lovegrove, and together they decided to become professional musi- cians. The Valentines were ambitious, inspired by the success of The Twilights and Masters Apprentices, as well as Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and The Easybeats out of Sydney. They released their first single in 1967, and made the Number 5 spot on the local charts. Shortly afterwards,The Valentines left Perth for Melbourne, to try their luck at being real pop stars.

I saw The Valentines on television, although I never saw them live. There were shows like Kommotion and The Go!! Show in the sixties, which had bands on to perform their latest hit single. The Valentines were on a show called Uptight to mime along to ‘Build Me Up Butter- cup’, wearing puffy-sleeve shirts and these terrible satin pants. I thought Bon was really cute but the band was really awful. I’d seen enough good music by then to know crap when I heard it.

I did my own exploring and record collecting, but I also had a couple of boyfriends who introduced me to some great stuff. I met the fi guy at the same scout hall where I saw my fi gig. His name was Phillip and he stood out like the proverbials because he had long hair (meaning hair that grew very slightly past his ears). He looked really different and exciting to me. I was very taken with him. Phillip said he was tossing up between me and a girlfriend of mine who lived down the road, but he chose me in the end. (He probably flipped a coin.) We danced together and I think he bought me some punch, and I ended up dating him for a couple of years. It was all very innocent. We went to see bands together and would neck in the corner at the end of the night, but it never went any further than that. I actually split up with him a couple of times but he kept coming back. He turned up at Mum’s in a new sports car one evening and she convinced me to patch it up and go for a drive with him, which I reluctantly agreed to do. I split up with him again afterwards because he was a terrible driver.

By that stage, I had left school and joined the work- force. I went to business college when I was sixteen to learn typing and shorthand, then found myself a job at a family-owned whitegoods store. (The boss came round to meet my mother and assure her they’d take good care of me.) The best thing about working was that I suddenly had my own money. I could buy records, makeup and beer whenever I wanted, and pay for taxis to get home at the end of the night. Being financially independent meant a lot to me. I left the whitegoods store after six months and went to work in a lawyer’s office, typing up the dictation on old carbon copy paper, but I didn’t last long. I kept handing in typed documents full of gaps because I couldn’t read my own shorthand. Unsurprisingly, they sacked me. My next stop was the public service, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, typing and filing car registrations. I must have lifted my game at that point because I held onto that job for a while.

I became quite good friends with a girl at work called Andrea, who went op-shopping with me before op- shopping was in fashion and loved to draw nearly as much as I did. Andrea was a very capable, industrious kind of person; I’d go around to her house and find her up on the roof banging away at something or out the back, making a pair of shoes. She also had a horse. I found her up at the stables one day with a snake wrapped around her waist.

‘Do you like my live belt?’ She grinned.

Andrea was about six feet tall but she had a breathless, girlish way of talking. She was very beautiful, I thought, with her lovely olive skin. She became my closest friend, although we had very different personalities. I was in awe of her. I was very sensitive and Andrea was very practical. She was confident, whereas I felt awkward in social situations a lot of the time. The truth is, I had pretty low self-esteem, which is how I ended up dating The Bastard. When I was seventeen, my social life revolved around music. There were daytime and afternoon gigs and lots of shows in the evening, and the evening shows rolled into other things. You’d jump in the car and head off to a party for more drinking, more talk and more music, and inevitably you’d meet people who liked the same stuff as you. I met The Bastard at one of these parties. He was sitting in a corner with his mates, making sarcastic comments about the other party guests. I thought he looked really arty and different; he was wearing a strange quilted jacket he’d somehow pilfered from the costume department of Fiddler on the Roof. He was incredibly confident – he fancied himself quite the intellectual. I was naïve enough to be impressed.

The Bastard started chatting to me at the party and eventually came around to asking me out, but I’m not entirely sure why. We began dating, but he was never that enthusiastic about the relationship, a point he demonstrated repeatedly the whole time it was going on. I had no phone at Mum’s so I had to wait around for him to come and see me; sometimes he turned up and sometimes he didn’t. When he did come over, he was awkward as hell and clearly would have preferred to be somewhere else.

‘Your mother’s bathroom must be the only one in the world where you come out dirtier than when you went in,’ he once said.

I got properly drunk for the first time in The Bastard’s company and it was a pretty miserable experience. We were out at the pub with a group of his friends when he handed me a bottle of scotch.

‘See if you can drink it down to here.’ He grinned.

I didn’t want to lose face in front of the boys so I knocked it back, as instructed, and shortly afterwards was completely legless. The Bastard drove me home, rang the doorbell and took off as soon as my mother answered. Later, he introduced me to drugs. We took these things called Purple Hearts when I was drunk enough not to think twice about it, then The Bastard disappeared. I ended up sitting in a car with Andrea and her boyfriend out the front of Mum’s place in the early hours, chatting away until the morning milk was delivered.

Obviously I shouldn’t have liked The Bastard, but I did. He seemed to know a lot about everything, particularly art. He got me reading novels and took me to the South Australian Film Festival, and he signed me up to the Australian Record Club so I could keep on top of all the amazing music coming out of England.

It was the late sixties and the music scene had well and truly changed by then. Everyone was obsessed with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and The Beatles’ White Album. That psychedelic rock sound hadn’t trickled down to the live music scene yet, but it was all you heard at parties. The Bastard was a big fan. I sat meekly next to him when we went out and watched him and his friends get stoned and talk endless hours of shit about the new sound coming out of the UK. He had great taste; he just wasn’t very nice.

The Bastard was the last guy I dated before Bon. I hate to even mention him, but the person I was when I met Bon Scott was deeply influenced by my relationship with the world’s shittiest boyfriend, in good ways and bad. On the one hand, he made me very guarded and fragile, and determined not to look stupid. On the other hand, he helped me to become quite headstrong and self-reliant. He took me to England, though he didn’t actually want me to be there.

In late 1969, when I was about nineteen, The Bastard went off to Singapore for a holiday, or at least that’s what he told me he was doing. He had actually moved to London, but he went to the trouble of writing fake letters and having friends in Singapore post them to me on his behalf. His father was outraged and let the truth slip when I went around to visit one day. I was angry and I was mortified. Unfortunately, I was also really heartbroken. (As a side- note, this didn’t stop me from having a revenge fling with one of The Bastard’s very respected acquaintances.)

The Bastard felt pretty awful for lying and getting caught, and he asked me to join him in London. And because I was a terrible idiot, I decided to go. I sold prac- tically everything I had to pay for the flight including the typewriter Mum had bought me.

‘Go and get it back!’ she cried. ‘I gave up smoking to pay for that thing!’

I had barely left Adelaide since I moved there as a child and London might as well have been the moon. I didn’t hesitate or ask for permission, mind you; I didn’t actually tell Mum I was going until after the ticket was booked. I thought of myself as quite a nervous and timid thing, but when it came down to it I was perfectly cool. I turned up at the airport with a miniskirt and a new set of luggage and boarded the flight without looking back. Mum was awestruck.

She said, ‘You got on that plane like you’d done it a hundred times before.’

I didn’t know what to be afraid of. I had no idea about other countries and cultures. We had a stopover in Bahrain and there I was in the miniskirt surrounded by Arabic men holding machine guns. It wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years that my outfit wasn’t appropriate. I just thought it was fantastic, like being in a film.

London was an even bigger thrill. It was the tail end of the swinging sixties and I missed the whole Carnaby Street scene by a couple of years, but it was still an electrifying place to be. There were fascinating people everywhere you looked, not just the odd slightly unusual person who popped up in Adelaide. I loved the whole English pub scene with open fires and winter light coming through the stained-glass windows. I loved the markets on the Kensington high street, which were full of handicrafts and things that you’d never find in the shops. I loved the feeling of being self-sufficient, figuring out how to read the tube map and get myself around that massive city. I felt like I was part of something, without even having to try.

I worked as a live-in maid for a wealthy couple in Chelsea, burning rissoles and bumping their vacuum cleaner as I dragged it up and down the stairs. My flat was in the basement of their house and the windows were below street level. It was like climbing out of the earth every time I walked up the stairs and I felt this dread that I would never reach the open air. Adelaide was flat and wide and spacious, but London hunched over you. Every- thing was grey; the footpaths, the buildings, the sky. But it was exciting, too. I didn’t realise it until I left, but I was bored with the blandness and backwardness of Adelaide. London felt like the centre of the world.

The Bastard had a job at an art gallery, so he took me to the occasional art exhibition and to screenings at the British Film Institute. Mick Jagger’s Performance opened while we were in town and he got us tickets, and I saw more live music than I can remember. There were tons of gigs in Camden Town and in Soho bars, south of Oxford Street; Rod Stewart played with The Faces in a venue that was basically a big school hall.

As the year rolled on, we took trips around Britain, to Hampton Court Castle and Stratford-upon-Avon, then north up to Scotland to a place called Galashiels. In the summer, we went to Amsterdam and visited Anne Frank’s house, and I learned that there are places in the world where people have slabs of cold meat and cheese for break- fast instead of Weet-Bix. On another weekend, we hitched to Dover and met a young French lawyer on the ferry to Calais. He drove us into Paris in his convertible and put us up in his apartment on Rue Bayen, then ferried us from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe to all these fantastic clubs and restaurants.

When we travelled together, The Bastard and I had a lot of fun. But there were times in London when I hardly felt like I even had a boyfriend. He lived with his mates in a dingy flat in West London, and spent most of his time with his head in a cloud of dope, listening to records and talking crap. People smoked and talked crap at parties back in Adelaide, but it was a laugh. In London, he’d get stoned and have a four-hour conversation about a guitar solo. It was incredibly tedious.

He rarely made plans with me and when he did he often wouldn’t turn up, or he’d make plans with other people and make it clear he didn’t want me tagging along. I would arrive somewhere to meet him, only to discover that he’d already left, and turn around to catch two tube trains home with my tail between my legs. Of course it seems obvious now that he wasn’t very interested in me, but he didn’t want me seeing anyone else either. I met a lot of lovely guys in London, funnily enough, but The Bastard had a habit of showing up at just the wrong moment and treating me like his property.

As the year dragged on, I got tired of him. I left my job as a maid and went to work as a typist at Australia House, and moved in with a fantastic group of girls who were all my own age. We played loud music and danced around the flat, and went out to pubs and parties together. The longer I stayed in London, the less I saw of my boyfriend, and the less I really cared. Christmas rolled around and he was nowhere to be seen, but I was happier than I had been in a long while. It snowed on Christmas Day. I was in the fl with the girls trying to cook a turkey when these little fl came drifting down past the window, and I was so excited I ran out into the street. There were people standing around outside the local pub, singing Christmas carols and drinking beer and watching it snow. I waved at them with a big, silly grin on my face. It was absolutely magic.

I decided to go home in the new year. There was no drama at all, no big announcement; I just told The Bastard I was leaving, and he shrugged to let me know that he didn’t really care. I realised in that moment how unpleasant he was. I was more than ready to walk away.

I was ashamed that I’d followed a guy who didn’t love me halfway around the world, but I didn’t regret going to London. It was a huge eye-opener for me. I had been to those magic, far-off places and seen them with my own eyes, which was a rare experience back in those days. I didn’t think it made me any more interesting, but I felt like I was my own person. If nothing else, I knew I could take care of myself. And I would take care of myself, espe- cially when it came to men. I wouldn’t let anyone take me for a fool, even though I felt foolish. I had all the pride in the world, but absolutely no confidence.

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