82 Queen's Road, New Lambton, Newcastle. (1969-1971)

Gerald (left) & Aidan, on the steps of our new house in New Lambton

82 Queen's Road was the type of house which even estate agents admit "needs work", "for modernising"". It was, however, a pleasant street and it has since become a very popular place to live. At the top of the street was an area of Bush, with walking trails to Richley Reserve.

I wanted to be mortgage free and it seemed a good buy with the money we had left.

I went out and bought some emulsion paint, in various colours and some brushes. Decorating was about all I could manage. Gilbert said he was going to get some painters in to do the outside. He would choose the colour. He chose black!

The painters, trying to be tactful, suggested charcoal grey. Gilbert agreed reluctantly to this compromise.

Aidan remembers though, that his Dad, returning when they were about a third of the way through with the painting, declared himself very unsatisfied. It wasn't black enough!

Aidan can make no sense of his dad's choice. "Why did he want black? People don't paint their houses black! Or do they?"

I am not sure how it all ended. Some shade of grey, I suppose. I can't remember living in a completely black house. Gilbert definitely had his quirks and foibles. We all agree on that. The lack of communication was a bigger problem. I wished he would listen to me sometimes.

Gilbert's father, Frederick died on 5th April, 1959 at his home 28 Balally Drive, Dundrum, Dublin. He was 87.

Marjorie wrote to Gilbert:

Pa died very suddenly at 4.15 in the afternoon of Easter Saturday. He hadn't been well for two weeks with a bad cold and bronchitis - - - I arrived home on Good Friday. Eric and Mary had gone to Cork. He sat out in the dining room & watched T.V. for an hour, had a pipe & cut his tobacco. On Saturday the doctor came, said that he was brighter - could get up in the evening for several hours - - - sit in the sun (it was a glorious day), but no walks or any drives yet. After he went, he got this uncomfortable feeling, which he thought was indigestion, but really was angina pains. He wasn't too good all day. I went to the supermarket & got a chicken for him & we had it at 3 o'clock & a coffee. He then went into the bathroom to wash himself, but didn't feel too good, came back & lay down on the bed. Paul Reynolds came in - - - said "Hello, Pop Foster" & asked him how he was & he said "better". I was in and out of his room & the garden. I went in about 4.15 & saw that he had gone, but he looked just as if he was asleep, but I couldn't get any response from him - - - We took him to Enniskerry Church yesterday at 5.00 o'clock & he is being buried today at 3.30.

Please please write.

Gilbert did not get on with his father when he was growing up. He described him as a very cold man. Towards the end of his life though he took an interest in his grandchildren and that pleased Gilbert. He called Gilbert Fred, which was his own name.

There are references in his letters to "the Heads", These were four passport size photographs of his grandchildren taken in Wagga. Marjorie had framed them for him. He liked "the Heads" and thought about the originals all the time. He wondered what they were doing. He kept the photograph on his bedside table, together with the studio picture of the two girls.

"The Heads".

Nevertheless, he made all sorts of blunders. He visited us once in Seaton and brought a watch for Aidan and nothing for the other three. They looked very disappointed. Any small present would have done at their age. They had no idea of the value of things. All they wanted was for him to remember them too.

He was buried at St. Patrick's Church, Enniskerry, joining his wife Emily Kate (Gilbert) Foster, who died on 30 January 1963 (before Rona was born).

Gilbert was left 1000 in his father's will. I was very relieved as I managed the budget and it was tight, even without a mortgage. The W.E.A. didn't pay well. Gilbert couldn't manage money or numbers. He had many weaknesses, despite his high intelligence in certain areas. I wanted to save the money for emergencies, after paying any outstanding bills. Keeping us out of debt was my responsibility.

Gilbert though, decided on a holiday. His latest adventure was to take us all up the coast of NSW, towards Queensland, for a fortnight. We didn't need a holiday. We had spent a whole year living on the shores of Lake Macquarie.

However Gilbert's mind was made up. Once fixed it wouldn't change. I had to accept that I would never make a realist out of him. Gilbert said once that he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was Dr. Jekyll on holidays, so inspite of all my misgivings, we all enjoyed it.

Aidan says that I was very into religion when we were in New Lambton. That is true. I saw life as a journey, with good and bad patches. Religion was a support on that journey. I was never sure of the next step or how it would all end, I suspected that, somewhere along the way, I would leave Gilbert.

Both girls belonged to the junior branch of the Girls' Friendly Society at All Saints' Anglican Church, New Lambton. It had been winding down for some time and the leader decided to leave. The curate of All Saints asked me to step in as leader of this group.

I was very hesitant about this. I didn't see myself as a leader. Still there were only a few girls and one was Bride's best friend, Dorothy Lewis. I decided to have a try.

Bride at a party at Dorothy Lewis' house. They corresponded for some time after we left Australia.

I had no idea about the ethos of the GFS, or what I was supposed to do or teach. So I simply ran it as a social club for 8-11 year olds. Because I was so unconfident, I prepared carefully for each meeting. We played games or painted pictures. It grew rapidly. Girls brought their friends from school.

I remember taking them one day into the walking trails, in the Bush, at the top of Queen's Road. We identified trees and plants, (carefully looked up by me in the library beforehand). Some of the girls turned out to be better at it than me!

Bride was also a Brownie and she said she preferred the GFS, because we didn't play competitive sports. She hated competitive sport.

Aidan was confirmed on 26th September, 1969, and soon afterwards the Rector asked if he would like to be a server. I could see that Aidan didn't really want to, but Gerald, who was standing beside him, said, "Could I do it? The Rector hesitated because Gerald had not yet been confirmed. Then he agreed that they could both have a try.

Aidan found the kneeling during the Communion service very difficult. He said that there was something wrong with the ventilation up there towards the altar and he fainted twice. So he gave it up.

It was Gerald who carried on right to the end of our time in Australia. He didn't have a problem with all the kneeling. He was good at it; he knew what to do. Gerald was a visual thinker. He learnt by observation. Sometimes he got to lead the processions, carrying the cross.

Gerald liked New Lambton. He found many interesting things to do there. He had an amazing ability to understand mechanical things and how they functioned. When he was very young he took everything apart; how he was putting them together again.

In New Lambton he formed a very good relationship with the man next door. This neighbour was into DIY and Gerald followed him everywhere. Whenever he heard hammering over the fence, Gerald was gone in any instant.This man was amazingly tolerant and let him watch and explained things to him. Gerald learnt a lot from him. It became a family joke that Gerald always spent his pocket money on nails!

Gerald outside our house at New Lambton.

Gerald had a habit of going missing. He was particularly attracted to building sites, so we had some idea of where to look for him. I remember he used to visit them on his way back from school. Once I found him on a nearby site, sitting with a row of builders and sharing their sandwiches!

He went up to the Bush, at the top of the road, one day and came back with three ticks. I carefully removed them. I was acquiring all sorts of skills! I don't know why all these things happened to Gerald, but they did.

In his last year at New Lambton he went to Newcastle Boys Technical High, but he didn't like it there. He thought visually, not verbally. He was never going to do well in schools.

I often thought he would have made a good farmer and that it was a pity I had had to sell Scarrowmanwick.

Bride remembers that Gerald liked to construct things: "He made a helicopter in the back garden, based on an old crate and a piece of piping. It had two seats at the back and he promised us girls a ride. When he thought it was ready to take off he invited us to sit in it. I don't know how he powered it, but both of us thought it rose a few inches from the ground. Even Mum, who was watching, thought it did. We were very impressed and told everyone we had had a helicopter ride!"

Gerald would do the most incredibly annoying things and involve the girls in it. Again Bride remembers: "He became interested in mud baths, so he dug a hole in the garden and filled it with water. Then all three of us got into it, with all our clothes on. Mum was so angry! That's why I remember it. All our clothes were ruined and we were coated in mud from head to foot."

Aidan was accepted for Newcastle Boys High, which was a selective school in the suburb of Waratah. It was a brutal school, Aidan said, and he hated it. The one good thing, though was the library. It had an excellent library. You could take books out, one at a time, and he enjoyed choosing a book to take home. He liked to read.

At lessons he was in the bottom stream, except for maths. He was too intimidated to learn. Caning was widespread for all sorts of trivial offences. He dreaded getting the cane. There was a chart showing the number of strokes for each offence. For example it was four for one cigarette.

He was not good at any sport except swimming. He was in the swimming team, which was quite an achievement in Australia where everyone could swim.

Aidan is in the 2nd row, 3rd from the left. I think it must have been the swimming that made him willing to go. He loved the Australian beaches.
Aidan is in the front row, 3rd from the left.

Newcastle Books High closed in 1976 with the new government policy of the gradual abolition of single sex schools and the selective system.

To late for Aidan! In view of all this, it was lucky that we moved to Canada. He liked his school in St. John's and made a number of good friends.

Two of Aidan's hobbies were visiting the Newcastle beaches and keeping animals. At that point we thought he might become a vet.

Aidan with some of his animals. The Pekinese was nicknamed Binks (real name Fashmere Franki). The cat on the right was called Funny-Nose because she had a black splodge on her nose. The other cat was completely white. We have forgotten its name.

In addition to all the cats, dog, mice etc., which lived in the house, Aidan kept guinea pigs. They ate the grass in the back garden, I knew how to sex guinea pigs, but something must have gone wrong. Maybe Aidan mixed the sexes up deliberately, because they kept producing babies. He also visited the pet shop regularly for new colours and breeds. So we had cages all over the back garden and lots and lots of guinea pigs.

One day a parrot flew into the back garden. It seemed to be tame and it let me catch it. Having caught it, I had no idea what to do with it. Should I let it go again? Would a tame parrot survive in the wild?

Gerald said he would like to have it. He would find out about parrots and what they liked to eat, (we were good cutomers at the local pet shop!) Gerald produced a cage and he called it Blenkinsop. It was an impressive name, he thought, and very suitable for such a distinguished looking parrot. Blenkinsop escaped one day and flew off. We never saw him again. Maybe he went home.

Gilbert had a Sabbatical year coming up at the end of 1971. He announced that we were going to Newfoundland. I looked it up on a map and discovered that it was very cold there. Icebergs in the harbour etc.!

I think Gilbert was going to do work there that would form the research part of his Sydney degree. This degree was not going brilliantly. I remember he wrote a letter complaining about his marks. Maybe he was in the wrong subject. He had an amazing memory for historical detail, and Trinity College had recognised him as one of their best students.

Although he received his full salary during his Sabbatical year, it did not include the air fares to Newfoundland. I took care of practical details. It was a role I had had to fall into over the years of our marriage. I began to save. Most of the children's clothes came from charity shops or second hand stalls. Shoes were a problem. They kept growing out of them. Groceries cost a lot with the six of us. I was very tense and nervous preparing for our next move.

I remember, at that time, I visited the doctor for some minor ailment, and he said my pulse was twice as fast as it should be - around 150bpm. He tested me for hyperthyroidism, but I knew it was only anxiety.

In the end it all came together. The Curate of All Saints was looking for somewhere to live and he took over our house for a year. I visited all their schools: Newcastle Boys High, Newcastle Technical Boys High and New Lambton Public School. I said we would be back in a year.

Rona, second row centre. The classes were becoming integrated - boys and girls. Bride said she preferred all girls. Some of the boys were bullies.

What I didn't realise was that we would never come back. I was semi-settled in New Lambton. Gilbert though had come to the end of the road in Australia. His future, he hoped, was in Canada. I expected to come back; he didn't. As usual we were not communicating.

Marian Foster. January 2017.