Excerpt from diary:
April 13th 1977
We stopped at ALBEROBELLO, a branch of the Appenines. Climbed cobbled streets to see inside a trullie which was being built.
The lower part of the building is made of large stones and mortar, the upper cone has no mortar, merely stones placed atop one another. Even the churches and rich men’s houses are of this style. There is no other style at all for many miles.
Alberto (our guide) says that the people of the trullies are very mysterious. Religions here have been Saracen, Muslim, Christian – a mixture of all.
International News 1996
ALBEROBELLO is listed on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Outcome of the synod held in Rome by Pope John 23rd:
Catholics will be told not to watch films, TV programmes or plays considered ‘unsafe’ by the Vatican. Women with bare arms or dressed in male clothing are to be denied the sacrament. Priests will be forbidden to smoke in public, and barred from theatres.
The Raleigh Herald
Rachel Mary Ferguson nee 16.5.1956
Welcome to the first child of our esteemed new Australian citizens, Thomas & Helen Ferguson.
Congratulations from all at Raleigh Shire Council.
The sun was high up, too bright to look at. The wind was blowing, too hot on three-year-old Rachel’s face. A wave was lapping her toes, soft and cool and clean. She tried to cup some water into her hands, but it dribbled through her fingers. So she walked into the waves.
‘Rachel! That’s far enough!’ her mother called from the shade of a big tree.
She stopped walking and sat in the water. The water was cool on her face.
It had to be Sunday because Daddy was working at home. Tomorrow would be Monday so he’d be at work in his office again. Next year she’d be starting kindergarten. Daddy said she was a lucky little girl because he could pay for kindergarten. He said Tracey next door wasn’t a lucky little girl because her daddy couldn’t pay for kindergarten. That wasn’t right. Tracey was lucky. Tracey’s daddy played with her and her mummy laughed.
If only she could swim, she’d swim out into the cool waves. Would kindergarten show her how to swim?
A big boat was sailing past. The people in the boat were waving to Mummy and the other people on the beach.
‘Rachel!’ her mother called again. ‘It’s time to come in!’
‘I don’t want to!’ She turned back to the sea. A big red cloud was sitting on top of the boat’s white wings.
She gathered her sandals, and took one last look. The sky was blue. The big red cloud had gone.
Where did the cloud go?
The sky was dark. The rain was drumming the windows. Sam was drumming his play drums to exactly the same beat. Clever Sam.
Her mother warned Sam. ‘You’ll have to stop your drums now, love. Your father will be home soon.’
Sam put the drum sticks away and started drawing in his book. He liked drawing too, which was all there was to do on rainy Sundays.
The rain stopped and left a river of water running down the window. Rachel turned back to her drawing. She couldn’t draw rain. She’d tried, but spots and dots and streaks didn’t show the sound. The same with wind. She could draw the backyard tree bending in the wind, but not wind’s sound and not wind’s look. What does wind look like?
She checked through the window. The dark clouds were getting blacker. The screaming wind was hurting her ears. She selected a black crayon, and. rechecked through the window.
The sky was clear! Everything looked light! Bright! Summer bright!
She closed her eyes. One, two, three…
She opened her eyes. The winter black clouds were still scudding across the sky. The screaming winds were still bending the gum tree.
Sh… Don’t tell. Don’t ever tell. She’d tried when she was little. She’d talked to Mummy and Sam. Clever Sam hadn’t believed that she saw things that weren’t happening. She hadn’t tried to talk to Daddy. He’d punish her for telling lies.
She’d talked to Tracey. Lucky Tracey, she didn’t see not-real things. Tracey said don’t tell, they’ll think you’re stupid.
Today the beach under the high cliff was perfect. No wind, no clouds, and Sam helping to make a giant sandcastle. Mummy was sitting in the shade, watching Luke. Brothers were fun, but a sister would be nice. Mummy had a sister. Aunty Gwen lived a long way away and Mummy missed her.
Mummy said not to want a sister, or any more brothers either. Three was enough. Sometimes Mummy was very sick, and a minder came while she stayed in bed. Not today. Today everything was perfect.
After the lunchtime break, Sam and Luke took a nap in the shade. Because she was too old for day-time naps, she went back to build the sandcastle even bigger. The sky was clear, the seagulls fighting for left-over lunch scraps, and the castle looking beautiful. When Sam woke up he’d be pleased.
A seagull crept close, not frightened, just curious. Some birds are curious. Like cats. Like Sam. Clever Sam was curious. Different from baby Luke who was always asleep.
The seagull pecked at the castle. She chased it away, all the way down the beach, until it flew off into the sky. She stopped, and started back for the castle. It was gone! No castle. No Mummy or Sam or Luke. She was lost.
Only new people on the sand, in the sea, in the shade. Strangers. Don’t cry. Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Wait. Why?
She sat down, and started to think very hard. Way back near the path up to the cliff-top the seagulls were still fighting, screeching. She couldn’t see them but she could hear them. Sometimes you don’t have to see, just listen.
Walking slowly, checking the edge of the beach, remembering each tiny landmark in case she’d got it wrong, she found her way back to the screeching seagulls and the castle. Mummy and Sam and Luke were still asleep. She lay down beside them, safe.
Rachel finished her breakfast, kissed her mother goodbye and told Sam to hurry up. She didn’t want to be late for school again.
‘There’s no hurry,’ her father said. ‘I’ll be driving you today.’
‘We can walk,’ she answered. ‘We like walking.’
‘Not today, Rachel.’ His face closed. ‘I want you with me when I talk to the Principal.’
‘Why? What have I done?’
‘Don’t ask questions.’
The digital clock above the stove was dawdling through each second like it was an hour. Sam was scowling. Her mother was pretending to be busy with the dishes. She knew better. Something was wrong. She’d done something wrong. What? She couldn’t think. Sam had to know because he was trying not to look at her.
Half an hour late, her father folded his newspaper, collected his satchel and led the way to the car. She sat beside him. Today Sam was in the back seat.
They pulled up at the school’s front door. The passageway was empty, everyone was in class. Sam went off to his room, with a written excuse for being late.
Her father knocked on the open office door, then ushered her inside.
The Principal was surprised. ‘Mr Ferguson! Come in!’
‘Good morning.’ Her father sat at the desk, in the chair opposite the Principal. ‘I need a minute.’
Miss Devine brushed away the papers she’d been working on. ‘Of course. Are you all right, Rachel?’
‘That’s why I’m here.’ Her father was very serious.
‘Oh! I’m not sure…’ Miss Devine was flustered because her father was an important man. ‘Should Rachel be listening to this?’
‘As you see.’ Her father was cold. ‘She’s here.’
‘Then you should be sitting with us, Rachel.’ The Principal pointed to a chair by the far wall. ‘Please… Pull the chair closer.’
She obeyed, but was careful not to sit too close. What had she done wrong?
‘Good girl,’ Miss Devine returned to her father. ‘How may I help?’
‘I hear Rachel’s been relegated to the back of the classroom.’
‘Is that a problem?’
‘Her end of term marks have fallen.’ Though her father didn’t look cross, his voice was cross. ‘It won’t do. She has to sit up front. She’s easily distracted. She loses concentration.’
That wasn’t fair. In mid-term she’d been away nursing her sick mother and minding baby Luke. Her marks could have been a lot worse.
‘A moment…’ Miss Devine opened the filing cabinet behind her.
‘You may take my word for it, Miss Devine.’
Miss Devine took a file from the cabinet, set it on the desk, and opened it.
Her father’s neat fingernails tap tap tapped the desk, but he said nothing.
‘Right!’ Miss Devine closed the file. ‘Her marks have fallen. Looking at her report card, I rather think absenteeism’s the culprit, not lack of concentration. Rachel’s an excellent student.’
‘A matter of opinion.’ Her father didn’t like people to disagree with him.
Her lips tight and her cheeks red, Miss Devine closed the file.
Her father looked at his watch. ‘The matter of proximity to the teacher?’
Miss Devine stood. ‘I shall look into it.’
Her father hurried out of the office.
The Principal ordered: ‘Run along to class, Rachel.’
Carefully, she replaced the chair by the far wall.
‘Thank you, dear.’ Miss Devine’s voice was especially kind.
She felt a little bit better.
Mr Tilley turned from the blackboard, looked at his pocket watch, and said to the class. ‘Half an hour should do it. In your own words. Any problems?’
Half an hour to write an essay, either on today’s local news or something to do with The Vietnam War. Mr Tilley cared. He liked to help with problems. He wasn’t like her father, who didn’t care; not about his family, not about the terrible war that people were arguing over, not about anything except himself. He didn’t even talk about how lucky Sam and Luke were that they weren’t old enough to be conscripted. Would the war go on much longer? No-one knew, not even Mr Tilley whose son had been conscripted.
She picked up the pen, but it wouldn’t move.
‘Okay, Rachel?’ Mr Tilley was at her side.
‘Yes, sir.’ She dug the pen into the paper, but it only scribbled.
‘If you can’t write the specific assignment,’ Mr Tilley’s gentle hand was on her shoulder. ‘Don’t force it. Write something else. Perhaps a comment on a book you’re reading. But write something.’
She looked up. ‘Yes, sir. I’ll…’ She stopped.
Mr Tilley was crying!
Quickly, before anyone should see, she gave him a tissue from the box on her desk.
‘What’s this?’ Mr Tilley was laughing. ‘A peace offering?’
Mr Tilley was laughing!
It had happened again. She’d seen not-real tears on Mr Tilley’s face.
Sh… Don’t tell…
It was a bother. Sometimes she nearly couldn’t sleep for worrying. This time she should tell Sam because he liked Mr Tilley. Still she didn’t. Couldn’t. He wouldn’t believe her now either.
A week later, the news came through. Mr Tilley’s son had been killed in Vietnam. That night she didn’t sleep.
And she did not tell.
The sun was peeping over the horizon, the dawn winds freezing.
Rachel sat up. Pain seared. The wave breaking over her body was blood red. Blood ebbed and flowed with each wave. To die…
She walked into the sea, far out, up to her hips, her breast. The soothing sea bathed the wounds.
Rape? Or the usual? Last night eluded, again. Sex and alcohol and waking in strange places; each time more frightening; each time no-one to confide in.
She cupped a ripple of water into her hands, and heard her mother’s voice. ‘Rachel! That’s far enough!’
She looked back. The dawn beach was empty. Memory was playing its cruel tricks.
She returned to the beach, climbed up the steep path to the cliff-top, caught a lift home with a farmer on his way to market, and collected a can of beer from the kitchen. She’d sleep through tomorrow. She’d fail end of year exams. So what? Her father had refused to fund University studies. Girls don’t have careers, girls have marriage and children. Another no, she was needed to nurse her mother. She opened the can of beer.
Memory of her mother’s long-ago voice persisted. ‘That’s far enough.’
She drank the beer, changed into warm pyjamas, pulled down the blind, and fell asleep at breakfast time.
CHAPTER ONE - part sample
- part sample
Church of England in Australia
Lay Assistant Holy Communion Canon:
To assist in the ministering and distribution of the Holy Communion, lay persons may be authorised as communicants by the bishop.
On the Eastern Coast of the sprawling Raleigh Shire, Raleigh City is the business heart of the broad plains that cover the valley between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Dividing Range. Initially a farming district, the discovery of gold saw the Shire quickly develop multiple diverse communities which rapidly outgrew its less financially productive neighbours. Though the gold rush is ended and the mines are closed, Raleigh thrives. In every arena – tourism, agriculture, fishing, business, education, religion, entertainment – the Raleigh region is becoming an Australian peak attraction for increasing numbers of tourists.
In the east, the city of Raleigh is famed for its commercially attractive deep broad harbour and its golden beaches. To the west, the sweeping grass plains line the long highway to the faraway mountains. To both the north and south the coastline is dotted with seaside villages which are becoming tourist Meccas in their own right.
Central to Raleigh Shire’s outstanding success is its up-to-date road and transport systems. From the gold fever days when the Cobb and Company coaches served its widespread citizens to post World War Two, Raleigh road and transport systems have been integral to its rapid growth. Although the coastal city is its heart, the broad straight highways bypassing the CBD directly service the north, south, and west communities. Although the winding Coast Road that hugs the eastern shore line is by far more beautiful, the long straight inland roads are the most efficient way of travelling from A to B.
As benefactors of Australia’s post World War Two assisted-passage scheme, British immigrants Tom and Helen Ferguson came to Raleigh at the end of 1955. A highly intelligent, smoothly handsome and charismatic young man, Tom secured a clerkship in the Raleigh Shire Council office. Guaranteed finance for their first Australian home, they moved into a two-bedroom cottage on the eastern edge of the city.
A decade later Tom started his own financial advisory business, expanded into stock-broking, stepped onto the corporate ladder, and ruthlessly climbed to outstanding success and social prominence. Thus the district’s leaders held up Tom Ferguson as a typical example of the advantages of immigrating to super democratic Australia’s bountiful Raleigh Shire.
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