Monday, 13 February 2017


 Chapter 3

     We were to start off in Sydney and somehow travel up to Perth.  From Perth we would go on to Singapore and then across to London.  Accommodation had been arranged in Singapore so only the problem of travelling to Perth had to be resolved - as well as checking into some Backpackers Hostels.
      I closed my eyes as the G-force threw me back into my seat.  The feeling of power always overwhelms me and I’m somewhat addicted to flying now.  As the luscious greenery of my homeland grew further and further away - the realisation that this adventure could turn out to be a trip of a lifetime or a disaster waiting to happen made me quite anxious as well as excited.  This was the beginning of a new way of life. Anything could happen, anything could go wrong and I would have no-one to run to, no-one would ever come to my rescue if a disaster happened or if I was stranded in a foreign country with no money, nowhere to stay and definitely no way of getting back home; which would be on the other side of the planet, although I was with Andy - relationships don’t always last.
     Three hours later I arrived in Sydney.  A great swarm of nervous, anxious and excited people buzzed passed me outside the terminal building.  I stood there for a few minutes and allowed the bright hot sun greet me with its warmth.  I was pleased to be back in Australia once again but also relieved that I didn’t have to contend with any more ‘Wizard’.  After Andy landed (we were on different flights) we picked up our bags and hopped onto the bus that would take us into Sydney city.  The bus we were on drove around dropping tourists off at their lush hotels, whereas us - being backpackers, were dropped off at the not-so-glam backpackers at the back of Kings Cross - not very far away from the Warratah Apartments.
     While we were in Kings Cross I went and said hello to Uncle Russell who was living there at the time with his girlfriend.  He spent most of his time off his face and his head permanently stuck in a bong.  I often wondered how he managed to live out the ‘rock and roll’ lifestyle during the day and still be able to hit the right notes in the evening - turns out he couldn’t.  In fact, it was the first time that I had experienced someone in the ‘family’ other than mum asking me if they could ‘borrow’ money.  I lent him some money with the realisation that I would never see it again.
     Uncle Russell played bass guitar in Graham Brazier’s band when he was living in New Zealand and he also shared the same stage with Bob Geldof (once) when he was in Auckland doing a gig.  The last time I’d seen Uncle Russell was when I was working in a town selling ‘Wizard’ and they just happened to be playing in the same town.  I stopped by the place they were playing and surprised him.  We went backstage - did the ‘groupy’ thing if you’d like to call it that.  It was quite a pokey little room filled with smoke and stunk of B.O.  It wasn’t as glamorous as I was led to believe.  The band broke up shortly after that and he headed for Australia to ‘find fame’.  Only it wasn’t working out the way that he’d planned and in reality - turned into a ‘dead beat’.  He’d continually tell me stories about the people that he met and the people that he used to hang out with but seeing him being in the position that he was in made me a little less gullible and I didn’t believe him.  We took a trip out to Bondi beach and hung out for a little bit, the beach was literally deserted and the full moon was up, it was just nice.
     Back in the red light district of Kings Cross I sat in the MacDonald’s restaurant on the corner and did a spot of ‘people-watching’.  Kings Cross is renown as a ‘red light’ district, the prostitutes strutted their stuff down the street.  Most of them didn’t care how they were dressed, one was wearing a see through red dress with white panties and no bra - definitely dressed to thrill.  I admired them in a way - they seemed to have in their lives what I was missing in mine.  Having enough self-esteem to walk down the street half naked and not conforming to social ideals.  I’ve always been a ‘conservative’ kind of dresser.  But on the same token - it gave me frightening shivers to think about what happened afterwards when the newly acquainted pair drove off into the unknown.  There were downsides to Kings Cross - there were times that I wasn’t sure what to do and had no option other than to play the part of the ‘bystander’.  One lady just literally dropped dead in the middle of the street due to a drugs overdose.  There’d also be other drunks that would fall unconscious wherever they fell.  It hadn’t changed a great deal since I’d been there last.
     We had a couple of day’s lee-way to find a job.  It wasn’t that difficult as seasonal and temporary jobs were listed on the notice-board’s of the backpackers hostels wanting workers.  I phoned one the advertisers up and went for an interview in Avalon.  The bus journey there took a little while; it’s out the hustle and bustle of Sydney.  It’s a quaint little town with a stunningly gorgeous beach.  It turned out that that’s where ‘Home & Away’ programme is/was filmed.  I got the job and also discovered that there was a backpackers hostel pretty much just across the road which was a blessing.  Literally a hassle free job making gift bags with cheap accommodation just over the road.  What more could I possibly want?
     We took the bus from Sydney to Avalon, driving through winding roads and beautiful scenery.  We checked into the backpackers there.  The job was enough to pay the accommodation and general living expenses as well as save a bit for the trip to Perth.
     It was a quiet town with very few shops.  One night at the Backpackers Hostel, we were sitting in the common room and had just finished laughing hysterically at some guy who genuinely thought that ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ was pronounced ‘ninety thousand two hundred and ten’ when an enormous crack of lightening lit the dark cloudy sky.  I wandered over to the door and watched the spectacular tropical storm pass by with all its anger.  The storm only lasted for about twenty minutes but I was amazed to see such power and spectacular displays of ferocious fork lightening.  It cracked loudly when it connected to the earth; the giant rumbles of thunder echoed throughout my entire body and the vibrations from it gave my feet a mini-massage.  I loved the intense power of a wild storm and afterwards when the last rumbles had disappeared the sky would be calm and silent - at peace.
     We stayed in Avalon for a good couple of months before making our way towards Perth.  We spent one last day in Sydney enjoying the breath taking scenery.  Since I’d been there before I knew the city roughly.  We went up the Sydney observation tower and gazed out at the spectacular harbour and famous landmarks.
     We’d be catching a bus from Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Adelaide and then from Adelaide across the Nullarbor Plains to Perth.  We said our goodbyes to Avalon and set off to Sydney’s bus station where we boarded the bus on route to Melbourne.  It was a night journey - we’d both be able to sleep on the way and be relatively fresh when we arrived in Melbourne in the morning.
     The sun was rising slowly behind scattered clouds as the bus entered Melbourne fifteen hours later.  We pulled into the bus station and the cold hit me hard in the face the minute I stepped off the bus.  My feet were swollen, my neck was stiff and my bottom was aching from sitting down for too long.  We were greeted by Andy’s sister, Carol, who was married to an Australian and had a couple of kids.  So I did the whole ‘family-bonding’ thing and it was also a chance for Andy and Carol to spend some time together before he went back to the UK.  Melbourne was an amazing city, with its old fashioned electric trams, the mellow buzz of shoppers hunting out a bargain - and the weather.  I was pre-warned that Melbourne was renowned for its rainy weather but it was the total opposite.
     Time passed by quickly and we found ourselves loading our backpacks onto the bus once more as we made our way to Adelaide.  It was another gruelling ten hour aching trip and I was just praying I could sleep the whole time so I’d get there quicker.  I found it rather bizarre that when we were staying in places time just whizzed by whereas when we were on the bus it just dragged on and on.  I was literally a walking zombie by the time we got to Adelaide.  We wandered around Adelaide and in comparison with Sydney and Melbourne, the place was quite mellow.  We came across some Koalas in the middle of the shopping mall (good photo opportunity) then onwards to a lovely garden where the wisteria was growing wild.  We didn’t stay in Adelaide for long before boarding the bus and heading across the Nullarbor Plains to Perth - which was miles and miles of sheer nothing.  Wildlife ran free making Kangaroos a hazard for drivers - especially at night.
     It was like slow torture, 35 hours on a bus with nothing to look at but red sand that stained your shoes and stung when it was windy (as discovered when we had a pit stop). It took two days and one night to get there by coach, every inch of my body was swollen and I swear my feet must’ve grown two sizes.  It’s Australia’s longest straight road - the ‘90 mile straight’.  There’s nothing for miles bar the occasional kangaroo hopping about.  All I could think of was having a top of the range sports car and just flooring it - seeing how fast I could go. It is the perfect spot for it.  The ‘outback’s’ temperatures heading into the late forty degree mark, no-one would want to be hanging around out there for too long which means hardly any people, traffic or speed cameras.  The sun set was absolutely amazing.  It set in an orange ball of fire that made the desert look smooth and golden.  It was such a gruelling bus trip, my neck ached tremendously at any angle so I found it difficult to sleep and my buttocks were in sheer agony.
     Eventually, the first glimpse of Perth was seen.  I was incredibly eager to get off the bus and would be quite happy never to step foot on one again.  The time it took from spotting Perth to pulling in at the bus station seemed to be in slow motion.
     As I attempted to lift my backpack - it just pulled me straight back down.  I eventually summoned the strength and got it on my back but it just felt as if it was going to make me to keel over backwards.  It took a few minutes to find my feet and the ability to balance.  It was almost like my feet had mysteriously turned into flippers and my muscle capabilities had deceased along the way.  A short while later, a scout from one of the Backpackers Hostels collected us and I was having a hot shower to relieve my senses from such an exhausting trip.
     It was a Saturday in Perth and nearly everything was closed for the day so we had no option but to chill out - which suited me fine.  I wasn’t up for doing the touristy thing - not after such a nightmare journey full of nothingness.
     We wandered around the next day, avoided the pelicans and slowly began to become human once more.  After ‘collecting’ ourselves it was once again time for some more travelling - this time involving a plane thankfully.  We still had to get on a bus to get to Perth Airport early in the morning - at least it’d be the last one for a long time.  Andy was flying with a different airline to me which meant that I’d be the first one to get to Singapore and I’d just meet him at the hotel.  Flying time was relatively short; five and a bit hours, compared to the mammoth bus trips it was a walk in the park.
     Just before I was due to land in Singapore - the air steward handed me the arrival card along with a little warning card with a skull and crossbones picture on it saying ‘smuggling drugs results in the death penalty’ beneath it.  It’s the first time I’d ever encountered a modern-day pirate-like warning about drugs.  At the airport the guards were fully equipped with machine guns and compared to the Australian and New Zealand’s basic guns - it was certainly a bit of a shell shock, I certainly didn’t want to annoy them.
     As I walked out of the terminal building leaving the air-conditioning behind - the extreme humidity threw me back a little bit.  I got a taxi to the hotel.  I was in heaven as I got to the hotel and went into the room.  It was absolute bliss after spending nights on stiff beds with just my sleeping bag, having communal wash rooms, no air conditioning and living amongst creepy crawlies like cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes.  The hotel had all the mod-cons, there was a nice comfy bed with a duvet, a power shower, and best of all - it was private.
     After I’d had a shower and got refreshed I went for a wander.  Walking down the main drag in Singapore everything was pristine - there were little ashtrays on top of rubbish bins.  There were little notices warning you that if you got caught littering or dropping your cigarette you would be fined fifty dollars.
     Singapore’s back streets were rough and ready.  Market stalls everywhere and street beggars sitting contentedly on corners with deformed limbs.  This was my first glimpse of real poverty.  From the corrugated iron shacks that were ready-made homes to the skinned dog carcases hanging in windows. 
     There were absolutely hundreds of cats, cats everywhere; and when it rained, the whole place just stunk of cat urine.  The rain was monsoon-ish, it would lash down for about ten to fifteen minutes and suddenly just stop.  Shortly afterwards everything would be dry again.
     I didn’t venture very far.  I knew it would be too dangerous to leave the crowds.  I was walking past Raffles Hotel when I heard voices behind me - there were three men following me yelling “Where do you come from? Where are you staying? Where are you going?”  They followed me for quite a distance.  I passed a little row of shops and an old woman grabbed my arm and tried to pull me into her shop saying “You buy, you buy.”  I snatched my arm back and just bolted.  Whether I lost them or they gave up following me I don’t know, all I know is it was an experience that I didn’t want to repeat so I found my way back to the hotel.  That evening Andy arrived.
     While in Singapore we went to the Chinese Gardens and Jurong Bird Park.  The Chinese gardens were full of bonsai, stone lions, and everything as one would expect to find in a Chinese garden including the statue of Confucius.  The downside to the gardens was no doubtedly the mosquitoes; they seemed to be in love with my blood.  Maybe it was because I have a rare blood type - who knows - but the bites on my legs were the size of a 50p piece.  They were very painful and itchy.  The Bird Park was really impressive; they even had a crocodile farm attached to the park where they bred them.               The young crocodiles would be handled by the workers who put ropes around their snouts, the crocodiles would spin to get free and the workers would end up with bite marks on their toes and fingers.  The larger crocodiles were in a secure compound that resembled their habitat.  There was a tunnel where you could walk underneath them and it was rather scary as the white belly just lay there above you.
     After the dodgy incident in Singapore with being followed, I decided it was definitely not my most favourite place to be.  I was getting excited about actually making it all the way to London.
     The time finally came after hanging around Singapore International Airport for a little while.  We were boarding separate planes again on route to London and we’d meet each other at the other end.  It was when I was asked to pay the departure tax that disaster and panic struck.  I searched my bag frantically for any loose Singapore change.  My heart was literally in my mouth as the thought of being stuck in Singapore with no money loomed over me like a dark cloud.  Luckily, there was just enough to leave the country with two Singapore cents to spare (they didn’t accept MasterCard; strictly cash only - which meant that I would’ve missed my flight getting the cash to pay the departure tax).
     At last, I was on my way to England.  All the excitement, anxiety and dreams of making it to England had snowballed inside.  The rush of adrenaline made me burst into a fit of laughter like that of a giggly schoolgirl.  I couldn’t hold back even at the slightest comment or thought.
     I had arrived in England on a cold icy day.  The temperature was minus one and I was unprepared for such a dramatic change of climate.  I wandered around the airport, not tempted to face the sub zero temperatures that awaited me outside. This was the time of reckoning, I had made it - I had arrived.
     We were picked up from Heathrow by Andy’s mum (Margaret) and her partner (Alan), they seemed nice.  Andy had already asked if we could stay there for a few days before we got a flat and that was okay.
     Before we got started looking for work he took me to meet his sisters (Sue and then Elaine). They were complete opposites.  Sue was a little bit hippy-ish and had three kids and a husband living in Kent and Elaine was married and were social climbers that lived in Bath.  Andy’s dad lived in Wales and was a bit on the eccentric side.  His tool shed was the kitchen and he’d even stuck carpet to the fridge/freezer in order to make it more insulated.  I didn’t mention anything about my family, they didn’t ask so I didn’t tell them.  Andy knew bits and pieces but not the whole story.
     It took a little bit longer to get a job in Hemel Hempstead than I’d anticipated.  I got a job at MasterCare two weeks later as a Customer Service Advisor which was in the industrial estate.  I absolutely hated it.  After a few months we got a flat in Adeyfield. Andy was beginning to launch his business and all of a sudden the great travelling holiday was turning into some kind of ‘normal’ life scenario and Andy had opted out of doing any more travelling without actually telling me.
     Every day I’d get up, get dressed, go to work, deal with arsehole people all day, get a headache from the air conditioning - go back to the flat, cook tea and that was it.  Big fat boring.  We didn’t go out to clubs or anything as it wasn’t Andy’s ‘cup of tea’ however he didn’t really seem to have a problem with it in NZ.  We’d go to sit down country pubs where I would literally be bored out of my brain however would do the polite thing and join him.
     This particular day was no different to any other.  I got up, got dressed, went to work only for a work colleague to say “Well? well?” in anticipation. Andy was going to propose but had forgotten to tell me about it.  Instead he had told his friend and it just so happened that his friend’s girlfriend was a work colleague of mine.  So, he proposed over a candlelit meal that evening and I hesitantly accepted.
     A few months had passed while in the ‘domestic bliss’ routine when I had a phone call from Aunt Carole.  It was bad news about Brendon (cousin).  He’d committed suicide and his family found him hanging in the garage.  It was a huge shock as I never thought for a moment that Brendon would give up on life.  He had it all - good looks, a caring family, so many positive things in his life that I was absolutely stunned.  His girlfriend had died in a motorbike accident and unfortunately he was hurting that much that voluntary death was the only option. Once I’d said goodbye to Aunt Carole, I looked out the window to see everything was white outside.  It had been snowing.  It was a very sad day.
     Brendon’s unexpected death was yet another catalyst to discover the world and experience everything that it could throw at me - with Andy not included.  I soon learned that Andy had started seeing his ex-girlfriend so in turn, I chucked the ring back in his face and left.
     I got a live-in job in a rough and ready pub in Hammersmith.  The place was okay, it didn’t really matter as I was in London which was where I wanted to be.  I could go discover London at my leisure.  Andy would write love letters and tell me that he missed me and all that jazz, asking me to come back.  It was a good couple of months before I started going to Hemel Hempstead for the weekends and staying with Andy - it was also a good couple of month’s wages that the pub owed me.  They didn’t pay me so I ended up having to take ‘IOU’s’ from the till.  I’d write it on a bit of paper and stick it in the till so that they knew.
     I was working in the bar one night and a relatively old man began talking to me.  He told me that he liked my ‘style’ and he asked me if I would work for him at his bar in Camden Town.  I asked him if the job was live-in and if he pays his staff on a regular basis.  He was a bit shocked to learn that I was having problems trying to get wages.  He said yes then he gave me his card and told me to ring him.  So the next day I rang him and he asked if I was able to start the next evening.  That morning I was packing my bags to leave Hammersmith when the boss came in - I asked him for my wages and he just made some excuse that I’d given a pint of Guinness away and that I was fired without pay.  Well - if I didn’t get fired I would’ve quit anyway.  Still; it happens regularly so I’ve heard.  That particular pub hired foreigners in order to string them out for as long as they can without paying them.  The bureaucracy of workers on working visas, lack of time, employment law and employment tribunals eat up a long time.  I was given a one year working visa - didn’t have the time to deal with all the bureaucracy.
     So I got the tube over to Camden, found the pub, went in and asked for a guy called Dennis.  He was to be my new boss.  The pub in Camden was absolutely busting at the seams over the weekend, just so busy - busier than what I’d been used to and when the end of the night came I’d need a shower as I’d be all sweaty from working a full throttle. It was a ‘traditional’ Irish bar with a Thai restaurant out the back.  They’d have bands come in during the weekends and during the summer days everyone would just be sprawled out everywhere outside with fire-eaters and people just mucking about.  It was great.
     There was a regular customer that came in and for some reason he kept calling me ‘Siobhan’.  I lost count of the amount of times that I corrected him but he insisted that I ‘looked’ Irish and that I ‘looked’ like a ‘Siobhan’ to him.  We got chatting and he would tell me stories about his Hollywood friends.  I didn’t believe him but listened anyway.   I was quietly surprised when Patrick Bergen (‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ movie) came in with him.  I thought Patrick Bergen was pretty ‘out there’ and a little eccentric.  He was quite unusual, he wore a cowboy hat and a coat that looked like Australia’s Outback one, he ordered a bottle of beer and asked for a shot glass - he’d pour the beer into the shot glass and drink it as if it was a shot.  Rather intriguing I thought.  I just kept thinking to myself ‘I know what you did to Julia Roberts’, but didn’t say anything.
     Shortly after that Johnny Rotten came in.  Not really a fan of the Sex Pistols and I tend to get Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten muddled up.  He sat in the corner of the bar talking to his friends.  I went upstairs after he shortly did a huge spit on the floor, ‘nice chap’ I thought. ‘NOT!’ I liked working in the bar in Camden, granted I didn’t get a lot of time off work but it was great fun.
     Things were improving between Andy and me.  I would go back to his on the weekends and just hang out.  Maybe improving a bit too much as I soon discovered that I was pregnant.  I went back to work for a short time until I decided to leave as lifting kegs (although empty) didn’t seem like the right thing to be doing.  I ended up having a miscarriage shortly after I left which was rather disheartening and the whole experience of having a D&C at Hemel Hempstead hospital was not only painful but upsetting.  Andy and I talked about it and decided that we would try for another baby soon.  A couple of months drifted by and my time in England was nearing an end.
     We did a little tour of Paris and Amsterdam which was great and standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower was pretty awesome.  The Notre Dame had scaffolding around it at the time but the detail was amazing and the choir boys inside that were singing were - heavenly (rather corny to describe them in those terms but they were).
     Amsterdam was great fun although I only remember bits and pieces of it.  Andy just crashed out for most of the time that we were there.  I had the experience of just one man following me this time - I’d just come out of a shop and a guy started grabbing me by the arm saying “Policia! Policia! Come back to shop! Come back to shop!”  He tried to drag me back towards the shop but I retracted my arm and asked him for ID, after that he decided that he couldn’t speak English and disappeared.
     When we got back to Hemel Hempstead I discovered that I had fallen pregnant.  I freaked out a little bit as it all seemed to happen really fast.  So it was decided that we would both return to New Zealand and settle there.
     Attempting to live in the UK would prove somewhat difficult for me as it was bitterly cold (almost too cold to function) and I would suffer tremendously - besides I had no intention of living in the UK - it was just a working holiday.  Living in the UK and holidaying in the UK are two completely different things.
     Before we went back to New Zealand we did a mini-tour of England for a week.  We drove up to Stratford-upon-Avon and had a look at William Shakespeare’s pad, Blackpool then onto Liverpool and into Scotland stopping at Edinburgh.
     On the way back I convinced Andy to find a place called ‘Johnstone’ as apparently it was where Johnstone castle is, we found it and it was a rather disappointing venture - it was the smallest of castles located in the middle of a housing estate.  As we were leaving the area of the castle there was the sudden screech of breaks and a giant thud - we had a car accident.  All I remember seeing was the others drivers face getting closer and closer and the expression on his face was just bracing himself for one almighty collision.  We all had whiplash and ended up at the hospital - I had a scan to make sure that the baby was okay.  Everything seemed to be fine and so instead of driving back to Hemel Hempstead - we got towed back.  We were dropped back at Margaret and Alan’s where we stayed for a couple of nights before heading back to New Zealand.
     The journey back home was rather exciting - we’d be stopping at Los Angeles, Hawaii and Fiji before arriving in NZ.
     We touched down at LAX and headed for the hotel in Anaheim.  Soon as we dumped our bags I flicked on the television and couldn’t believe the amount of channels they had.  Most of them had political adverts degrading and belittling other members of opposition parties.  It was also Halloween and there were programmes about pumpkins by the masses.  I’d never encountered Halloween before, after all - it is American.
     The next day we were sitting in a diner having breakfast when we heard a competition on the local radio station - the first 50 or 100 people to be dressed up in full Halloween costume were allowed into Disneyland for free.  I sat there and was amazed at the amount of witches, ghosts and goblins hurriedly walking towards Disneyland eager to be one of the winners – within such a short period of time, thinking that they must’ve been dressed in costume already.  Never in my life had I seen such enthusiasm.  We just moseyed into Disneyland at a leisurely pace and had to pay to get in.  Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed on many of the rides because I was pregnant.  Still; ‘Toontown’ was a hoon.  ‘It’s a Small World’ was of course annoying (there’s only so many times one can sing that song) and the Disney train was fun too.  I became quite frustrated as I had to wait around for Andy to finish all the rides.  The worst one was the ‘Back to the Future’ ride.  They had the original De Lorean sitting outside the building with the virtual ride inside.  I had the pleasure of looking at the car while Andy got to speed through the tower’s clock and go back and forwards in time, he was absolutely buzzing when he came back out.  After the ‘Back to the Future’ ride we went off to watch the ‘Miami Vice’ stunt show.  Crockett and Tubbs would be zooming around on jet skis trying to get the bad guys who would in turn be shooting at them and trying blow them up and it finished with a rigged helicopter explosion at the end.  Disneyland was great - it would’ve been greater had I been able to enjoy the rides though.
     The next day we went to Universal Studios where we were indulged with ‘old sets’, ‘hot sets’ and all things movies.  It was quite amazing to see the old buildings such as the ‘Munster’s’ house, the clock tower out of ‘Back to the Future’, ‘Psycho’s’ house, feeding ‘Jaws’ and seeing how they actually parted the river when Moses parted the Red Sea.  As we left Universal Studios we drove past where they filmed the car race from ‘Grease’ and I spotted the ‘Hollywood’ sign but couldn’t get a picture.
     Onwards to Hawaii.  It was the early hours of the morning by the time we landed and we were both greeted by ‘Aloha!’ and a lei of flowers were hung around our necks from the ‘welcoming party’.  We were both feeling rather tired and little dopey from the flight so Hawaii was a good place just to kick back and enjoy the island’s way of life.  We headed down to the beach and chilled out for as long as the waves allowed us.  The beach front drops so dramatically that when a bigger wave is coming there is no way of knowing until its too late and everything is swamped and drenched.
     The weather was gorgeous and the island was very laid back.  We hired a jeep and drove around the island stopping at little picture spots along the way.  The whole island is just very lush.  It wasn’t until we reached Pearl Harbour that I realised that this little island has seem some disastrous atrocities in its day - however has sprung back to life like that of a blossoming flower.
     Next stop was Fiji.  When we landed in the rather small airport at Suva we were greeted with ‘Bula!’ and wreaths of flowers were then draped around our necks by the Fijian ‘welcoming party’.  We drove a little way out of the capital to get to our resort and once we got there we could just do nothing at our leisure.  It was great.  We ventured into Suva and had a look around but preferred to hang out at the resort where we had the luxury of the pool as well as the reefs etc.  It was quite hot in Fiji and I ended up getting sunburnt feet as my feet were dangling in the pool - they ached tremendously on the flight between Fiji and Christchurch.
     We’d arranged a connecting flight from Christchurch to Invercargill.  By the time we were approaching the landing strip at Invercargill airport I was beginning to have mixed emotions about being back.  After all I had left Invercargill shortly after Russell died and only been back a couple of times since for a short amount of time.  During all the visits there had been some kind of family dispute involving my mother.  The concept of living there again, raising a family of my own hadn’t completely sunk in - almost like I’d gone so far but nowhere at all.
     We stayed with Aunt Carole and Peter on the farm until we rented a small flat in Invercargill.  From there we looked around and ended up buying a two bedroom house with half an acre of land in Wyndham which was about a half hour drive out of Invercargill.  Mother hadn’t changed; her views about life in general were still the same.  The world had done her wrong and she was owed huge favours which everyone around her must succumb to.  She was still in the country and western group and was a hard core tussock jumper.  While Andy was around she behaved herself.  She would keep her comments to herself as she tried to portray herself as being the loving and caring mother - of which she wasn’t.
     In between the flat in Invercargill and buying the house in Wyndham I was getting larger and larger.  I was six months pregnant when we got married in the Queen’s Park Rose Gardens in Invercargill.  It was 34 degrees on the day and my makeup was literally just melting off.   I was struggling to fit into the meringue dress - I seemed to swell quite dramatically within just a week of the dress fitting to actually wearing it.
     Andy’s dad (Berkeley) came over from Wales to the wedding - and once we got married, he ended up coming with us on honeymoon; which wasn’t the greatest of experiences.  We bought the house just a couple of months before Shivon (Von or Vonny for short) was born and it had to undergo some major work which involved digging up the kitchen and replacing the foundations.  The house was a complete shambles, meanwhile I was just growing larger and larger.  Luckily the majority of work to the house was finished by the time Shivon came along.  Andy told me that my belly button would pop out but I didn’t believe him, it wasn’t long after he’d said that - it did.
     I was becoming tired with the weight, I couldn’t shave my legs nor could I sleep properly as my body was preparing me for the arrival of a newborn.  I’d be awake every couple of hours.  Meanwhile, Andy was building his little farm out the back and was quite content with his four calves, his motorbike and his fabulous outdoor tool shed.
     With only days until the expected birth it was a mad panic - especially with Braxton Hicks as there were a couple of false alarms.  I thought I was going to give birth by the side of the road at one point.  Eventually the time came and I found myself permanently attached to the gas and air mask at Kew Hospital. I was literally begging for a caesarean, but being ‘traditional’, my doctor refused.  I was in labour for two days and I really did think that Shivon was coming in to the world and I was on my way out.  I had all of the above drugs plus more, gas and air, two shots of pethidine, epidural - of which they had to give me a double dose.  It was reaching a critical point when my Doctor said to give me a c-section but almost at the same time that she gave the instruction - apparently I’d dilated.  A few more hours later and Shivon was born.  29th May, 1995.                  When we went to Births, Deaths and Marriages to officially name her - I’d forgotten how to spell Siobhan so instead I opted for Shivon.  It’s better; more original.  I called her Shivon due to the old guy from the Camden Pub, I quite liked that name.  Andy said he was okay with it and liked it; just so long as she had Sue as her middle name.
     I turned the big 21 the next day and I was still absolutely exhausted.  Vonny (Shivon) was a ‘sucky’ baby and seemed to want to nuzzle all the time.  My nipples were so sore with blisters and cracks - I just couldn’t breast feed anymore so she went on to being bottle fed.
     It wasn’t too long after Vonny arrived that I started hearing the same old spiel from mum.  She’d slipped back into her venomous ways as well as try to demean and belittle everything that I was doing.  She started up at the hospital and it just so happened my Doctor had a case of immaculate timing and came into the room - mum decided to refrain from what she was saying very quickly.
     Life back in Wyndham was quite boring.  There wasn’t a great deal there and its miles away from any nightlife.  All there is to do is do the ‘farmers wife’ routine; which isn’t me at all.  Plus, I was being bombarded with memories that I didn’t want to have anymore.
     I kept looking at Vonny thinking that there’s no way that I could put her through the same shit as Russell and I went through.  It’s all about breaking the cycle.  I wanted to move to Christchurch but Andy insisted that we have to be near family for some strange reason so it was a choice between Invercargill or Hemel Hempstead; I felt like I had no choice but to opt for Hemel Hempstead.  So, three months later we were off again, we’d been there less than a year.
     So it was back to Hemel Hempstead.  We’d put the house up for sale and it was snapped up pretty quickly.  Allied Pickford’s came and packed our household belongings in order to get them shipped to England.
     Time was nearly up in Invercargill and once again I found myself boarding a plane ready to leave - only this time I had a three month old baby girl to care for along the way.  It was going to be a painfully long flight, from Invercargill to Christchurch, Christchurch to Tahiti, Tahiti to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to London - such a mammoth trip.
     I caught Air New Zealand on the first leg of the journey through to Los Angeles.  Then KLM from Los Angeles to Amsterdam then back to London.  Air New Zealand were great but KLM were a different story altogether.  I’d booked the bassinette seat on all flights however when we boarded the plane in Los Angeles they asked me to sit in an ordinary aisle seat and put Vonny on the floor because an overweight person was sitting in the seat where the bassinette was.  I huffed and puffed and they eventually gave in - however wouldn’t help me with anything after that.  They refused to warm Vonny’s milk as they said that they might get sued and were just completely rude.  I got told that I would have to heat her milk up myself.  I had to leave Vonny when she was hungry while I made my way around the kitchen on the aircraft to heat up her milk.  Vonny was screaming when I left her - I felt sorry for the other passengers however I couldn’t do a lot about it at the time as I wasn’t getting any ‘service’.  It was the most horrible trip that I had been on in all my life.  Vonny screamed that much that when she got off the plane she had developed a chest infection that took a little while to recover.  I did send a letter of complaint to KLM but all I got back from them was “the Airline Steward’s have no recollection of this matter.”
     I was nearly kissing the ground by the time we landed at Heathrow.  I really needed to change Vonny’s nappy as well as freshen up as Vonny was sick on me when we boarded the plane in Christchurch and I stank to high heaven.  I had never stunk so badly in my entire life.  I’d remembered all of Vonny’s things but forgot to pack things for me.
     Andy was extra pleased to see us as it soon emerged that just after we’d left Tahiti people demolished the airport terminal with bulldozers and began to set fire to planes on the tarmac because of the French’s nuclear testing at Mururoa Atol.  We were bloody lucky to escape it.  I’d heard a rumour about riots but didn’t think it was to that extent.
     We had arrived in England on a very cold day.  Andy hadn’t got a place for us to stay during the interim, so we stayed at Margaret and Alan’s until we started renting a house in Highfield.  We had to ‘make do’ until our stuff arrived courtesy of Allied Pickford’s.
     It was about six months before our furniture arrived from Allied Pickford’s - only to find that our fridge/freezer had gone walkabouts.  During the meantime we ‘made do’ with cardboard boxes.  I’d made a big one into a temporary cot for Vonny and got another bigger box and made it into a changing table.  Andy and I had a spare mattress and slept on the floor.  We moved again and rented a place in Grovehill.  I guess that’s where the real problems began.
     Andy and I were becoming more distant.  When he got home from work in the evenings - I’d go to work at the local nightclub - so we really didn’t see each other that much.  There were a couple of his friends that had said I only married him to stay in the country.  The tension between us was a ticking time bomb.
     Vonny was two years old by this stage and I was absolutely knackered.  I’d work from 8.30pm to 3.30am, go back home and then be up to Vonny in the morning between 6–7am.  I’d get Wednesday and Sunday off which left little time to recoup.
     Sometimes I’d get home in the early hours of the morning to find Vonny crying as Andy couldn’t be bothered getting out of bed to put her back into bed - needless to say that I got pissed off with him for not making an effort.
     He soon became mega controlling and the breaking point was when I needed some basics such as bread and milk so I went and got them - I’d spent £5.  That was it - he marched upstairs with Vonny in his arms and started having a go at me.  I just sighed and said “I want a divorce Andy”, he said “Right, you want a divorce, you got one”, and so it began.
     He moved out and went to stay with Margaret and Alan telling them that I’d kicked him out.  Andy was looking after Vonny when I went to work, right up to the point when my appendix ruptured.
     I was working one night and thought that I had period pain - so took a couple of strong painkillers.  I carried on working until I finished and went home as normal.  The next day I could hardly walk so I went to hospital only to find that I had to have an operation to get my appendix removed.  I remember coming round after the operation, the Doctor and nurse were beside the bed and the Doctor said “We’ve just removed a nasty appendix.”  Just as he’d said that the needle in my hand came out and blood was spurting out of it, the nurse fixed it and I crashed out.
     Andy bought Vonny to the hospital the next day.  I didn’t really get a chance to spend any time with Vonny as all he said was that he wanted the oak cabinet that we bought back from Invercargill.  I said “What? No”, so he just picked Vonny up and left.
     The next day I checked myself out and went back to the house in Grovehill and shortly after Vonny came home.  I couldn’t work straight away and had to accept statutory sick pay of £40 a week while still paying legal aid for the divorce and household bills.  I was starting to get more and more into debt every week.  I found it hard to recover from the operation and look after Vonny on my own.  It was difficult carrying her up the stairs and doing the normal things that one takes for granted when physically fit.  I phoned Andy to see if he could help but all he said was that I was incapable of looking after her, I’m a bad parent and that he was going to be seeking custody.  That day he came and got her and didn’t bring her back - I just got a phone call saying the same thing; that he’s going to get custody.  It didn’t last for too long as he dropped her off the next day.
     Shortly after that I spoke to a lady from the playgroup who said Andy was seeing a woman called Kate.  Apparently they’d been seeing each other before Andy had moved out, apparently Kate was asking “What do you know about Michelle?”
     They had since moved in together in a little cottage in Great Gaddesden and Vonny was told “This is your new mum.”  I confronted Andy about it and he just denied it.  He couldn’t deny it for too long as he just couldn’t help himself from saying “We are a family unit, we have our own place, we are getting married and we are going to get custody of Shivon, you have nothing.”  I thought to myself ‘bloody great, from one abusive relationship to the next’.  There were a couple of times that I’d asked for help but he just simply said “Life’s hard isn’t it.”
     I went back to work for a little while only to find myself struggling with childcare.  On one occasion Margaret and Alan were looking after Vonny as Andy couldn’t and I was to pick her up from Margaret and Alan’s the next day.  Unfortunately I slept in and woke up to the doorbell constantly going ‘Dingdingdingding’.  I answered the door to find Alan yelling “What are you doing with your life - what do you think you’re doing?” “Where’s Vonny, is she here?” I asked, he said “No, she’s waiting at the house for you to go and pick her up.”  I was confused, why come over and do that? I got dressed and was soon on my way to go and pick her up and as I was driving to Margaret and Alan’s - got more and more agitated about how they’d handled the whole situation.  I’d said sorry for sleeping in but still got an ear bashing.  I thought - well, if it’s good enough for me then it’s got to be good enough for them. 
     I got to Margaret and Alan’s and rang their doorbell like Alan did mine.  Alan was already back at the house which really didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Vonny came out and then Margaret and Alan proceeded to have a go in the middle of the street - so I had a go back.  As I was putting Vonny in the car seat Margaret said “You should be thanking me”, I said “It’s Andy that should be thanking you, it’s his weekend.”  They seemed to like seeing me lose my temper as they would then patronisingly ask “Why are you so angry?”
     Shortly after Andy rang to have another rant, it was almost as if they were giving themselves ammunition just to ‘have a go’.  I’d had enough so when he said that he was going to be having Vonny for a week I just said fine.  One of my work colleagues had asked me to go on holiday with them to Cyprus so I thought ‘fuck it, I’m going’. Of course I was incredibly selfish according to Andy but it was a good opportunity just to get away and chill out a bit.
     When I got back from Cyprus I had more bad news - I had been evicted from the rented house in Grovehill.  The rental agreement had run its course and the family that owned it were expanding, I was effectively homeless.
     So with complete despair I had to wait and depend on the council.  I’d heard horror stories about where they put you and being a council tenant rather than a private one had its many downfalls.  Within a few months we got a two bedroom flat in a place called Gade Tower in Nash Mills.  We lived there for about three to four years, during which time the nonsense with the custody was still going on.  I was continually getting called a ‘bad parent’ and verbally abused on a regular basis.  Gade Tower wasn’t the nicest of places, there’d be used needles and blood on the floor, once the door was shut – that’s it – visitors make an appointment.  Of course, I didn’t have that many because it was Gade Tower, ‘drop out city’, and unfortunately if you live in a place like that – you’re automatically branded as being ‘one of them’.
     One night when Vonny was with Andy there was a knock at the door - it was a drunk Kate.  She invited herself in and proceeded to tell me how I should be raising Vonny and how I should be living my life - she even went as far as coming inches away from my face and trying to intimidate me in such a way to provoke a reaction - that much that I would have no option but to deck her.  It would’ve given her some extra ‘ammunition’ against me if I did by way of running back to Andy saying “Look what she did to me.”  Kate’s sister was apparently waiting for her in the car outside and when she eventually left she said “This is our little secret.”  Kate was hell bent on having a baby almost to the point of it becoming an obsession and she looked at Vonny as if she was her own.  It was clear to me that once she started to have babies with Andy, Vonny would ultimately be pushed out of the equation, perhaps a good thing for me but not fair at all on Vonny.
     There were many times when he’d use Vonny just to get back at me.  He was a male version of my mother; absolutely full of bitterness.  Once again I found myself completely worn out and sick to death of being branded as the ‘bitter ex-wife’ so I went and got a loan and booked the return flights home to NZ - we both needed a break.  I had a letter from his solicitor saying that it was against the law to take Vonny out of the country without his permission however; informed them that it is indeed within the law to take my daughter out of the country for a period of no longer than 4 weeks.  We would be staying in NZ for the maximum time that we were ‘allowed’.  It falls under something called ‘The Hague Convention’.
     I didn’t tell anyone that I was going to New Zealand.  We had a long flight and once we landed in Invercargill I hired a car and drove out to Aunt Carole and Peters - knocked on the door and gave her a huge surprise.  It was very emotional.
     We stayed with Aunt Carole and Peter for a bit, then for some strange reason tried to rekindle some kind of relationship with my mother so went to hers.  While we were there she was still saying “Should’ve had an abortion” in front of Vonny and all the other shit so I left there quick smart.  I took Vonny from Invercargill through to Queenstown, over to Dunedin and back down to Invercargill.  The time that we had flew by and before I knew it, it was time to return back to England.
     We got back to England and I did feel somewhat refreshed and recharged.  Although I hated the tower and quite often there’d be syringes along with blood splatters lying around outside.  Once we got inside the flat - the door would be locked and bolted shut.
     Vonny had started Nash Mills School and we were going about our ‘normal’ business. Andy was still being a complete dick but then, things don’t change overnight; if at all.  I’d started to work weekends at a local pub while Vonny would be at her dad’s and it was at the pub where I met a guy who was looking for a travel buddy to go to Jamaica with him - so I stuck my hand up.  Travel buddy as in travel buddy only.
     We stayed just outside of Negril in a little shack that his friend owned.  We drove out to Dunn’s River falls where I climbed up them and generally just hung out on the beach. He was a bit silly one night as he went out and ended up getting his drink spiked and then mugged and dumped so I had to find him the next day - it ended up as a rescue mission where I turned into a babysitter instead.  Not that much fun.  The wildlife and people that I had encountered were great.  I would hear “Hey white girl” as I was walking down the road.
     The place we were staying wasn’t in the touristy bit and we were amongst the locals. I wandered on to a different part of the beach and ended up being asked to leave as I wasn’t staying in the hotel (which looked really nice, it was ‘private’, I was jealous).  The Hummingbirds were so tiny and there was a moth the size of my hand positioned on a door of a shop, it was lovely and warm and so ‘yeh mon, I-ree’.
     A couple of months later Vonny and I had our first ‘British’ holiday.  I found a cheap deal at Butlins in Bognor Regis. Vonny was at an age where she would love spending time with Noddy.  I certainly learnt my lesson after the fifth day though; needless to say, I really don’t like Noddy.
     It had been a while since I had a ‘meaningful’ relationship with anyone after Andy and the whole scenario made me somewhat nervous.  The new relationship didn’t last for too long either - he was rather possessive and needy and it ended on Mother’s day.  It lasted for about three months.  The next one came along a little while later; his name was Russell - freakish really.  Our first date was at the Red Lion and we seemed to get on okay.
     Russell was a hard-core festival fan and I had never been to a festival before so our first trip was to the Virgin Festival in 2001.  It was a great experience, Texas were playing along with Nelly Furtado, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Faithless, David Grey and Crowded House.  Kylie Minogue also played but we missed her performance, apparently the dancers dropped her that year.  When we got back to Hemel Hempstead, Andy started to interfere and become jealous as Vonny was talking about Russell all the time.  He would make things difficult and he was difficult to deal with.  It seemed; if I was single Kate would be ‘funny’ and if I was seeing someone Andy would be ‘funny’, it was a no-win situation. That aside, we carried on being a ‘couple’, our first ‘family’ holiday was a camping trip in the New Forest.  It was quite weird to be involved with someone and be away with someone with my daughter in tow.  We went to Bournemouth beach, went out for dinner; did all the stuff that ‘families’ normally do - quite a bizarre experience that I hadn’t been accustomed to for quite some time.
     Luck was certainly changing; I was starting to feel happy once again.  Even happier when I got a letter from the Council saying that I had been offered a tenancy with a Housing Association on a new development in Apsley Lock.  It’s a two bedroom house with a garden, close to school, close to the train station and right by the Grand Union canal; absolute heaven compared to the tower.
     Russell and I finished the year by going to Rome.  It was absolutely amazing.  I was just in absolute awe of the whole city; the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain.  Everything is built on top of the old buildings so the old buildings are literally underground.  All I kept saying was “wow.”
     In March (2002) we went and seen Faithless at Wembley - it was brilliant.  We got right up to the front and Sister Bliss looked at me.  I felt like Vonny - where her enthusiasm bubbled over when I took her to see the Wiggles at the Dacorum Civic.  She went up to the front of the stage and ran back shouting “He smiled at me mummy, he smiled at me!” She was star-struck.
     That was the first year that I was able to give Vonny a birthday party.  It was just full-on stress for three excruciatingly traumatic hours.  Things that should’ve lasted for 15 minutes lasted for five, 20 odd kids screaming and shouting and demanding to be amused.  I sure did appreciate peace after they all went home.  Russell had given us tickets to go and see Kylie at Wembley as a present to both of us.  Vonny was quite impressed when we saw Kylie, the audience sang her ‘Happy Birthday’ and Vonny said “Oh mum, it’s Kylies birthday today, it’s my birthday tomorrow and then it’s yours!” That evening when she fell asleep she was clutching her Kylie Minogue book with a little cherub smile.
     Shortly after that we went to the Queens Jubilee.  All the flags were up and I was blown away by Brian May playing his guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace with hoards of people lining the streets.  A few months later things started to fizzle out between Russell and me.  By the time Glastonbury arrived things were starting to get strained between us.  Of course Andy couldn’t help but cause problems as he knew we had planned on going to Glastonbury and came up with an excuse as to why he refused to look after Shivon a couple of days before the festival was about to begin.  Russell and Andy ended up having an argument on the phone about the colour of Shivon’s poo.  We ended up breaking up a week before we were due to go on a ‘family’ holiday to Woolacombe not long after we got back from Glastonbury - I was heartbroken.
     I took Vonny to Woolacombe on my own.  I bought a tent and off we went.  Vonny enjoyed her time on the beach and seeing what the area had to offer whereas me - I was just trying to hold myself together.  I ended up becoming quite ill in Woolacombe and lost a bit of weight.  When we got back to Hemel Hempstead I had to go into hospital for some examinations and it turned out to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome - nothing life threatening but certainly bloody painful.  It would come in bouts, one minute I’d be fit and healthy; the next I would be in complete agony and have a major flatulence problem.
     Things settled down a bit and shortly afterwards a friend invited me to go to Prague with them.  It didn’t occur to me at the time that the Moby-lookalike friend actually wanted something else rather than just friendship.  The day before we were due to fly out I got an email from him with ‘dinner’ and ‘date’ in the same sentence; my first reaction was to back out from going and I thought ‘I don’t want to go’.  It certainly made things awkward.  I went to Prague anyway and was quite freaked out by the place, the whole history, just spooky. I didn’t speak to the Moby-lookalike again after that.
     That year I also met Sally.  She was a friend of a friend and shared the same birthday as me.  I also met Tracy who had not long shifted into Hemel Hempstead.  I asked her round for a drink - unbeknown to her I didn’t mean coffee - I meant vodka.  I met Tina that year as well - Tina was a ‘kiwi’ living in Hemel Hempstead who I met at Yoga.  Sally was in her forties and married with two children, she was quite ‘well-to-do’, had millionaire parents while her husband was in the property market.  It seemed when she was stuck for cash she’d ask her mum.  If only I had one of those.
     Sally’s parents used to live near her however one night when her parents were babysitting - they woke up to find some cocaine in the kitchen, Sally’s parents found it.  Her parents later moved to Cornwall.
     Sally had a best friend called Freddy who resembled something of an Italian beauty queen and she knew it.  She worked with Virgin Airlines and was rather pleased with herself when Sir Richard Branson made a bee line for her at a meeting; allegedly.
     I enjoy the company of women, although sometimes not all women like other women and sometimes the bitching can be worse than the school years.  Single women see other single women as a threat.  Married women see single women as well as other married women as a threat.  Sally introduced me to a world of materialism and sheer pretentiousness where image was the main focus and everything else is centred around it.  I’d not met any other women that were so infatuated with themselves.
     Tina was the complete opposite - she hardly wore makeup, she didn’t have any designer clothes and didn’t like to ‘borrow’ money from her other half (Howard) whom she was living with as well as their three kids.  Tina fell into the ‘private’ category and drove a nice BMW.  They’d not long had their back garden renovated by Diarmuid Gavin’s team from the BBC.  They paid approximately £10k to have it done.  It was a major job and quite a headache for Tina.  While the BBC team were there they would be constantly arguing and slagging each other off, when the cameras were rolling conversations were on a more pleasant level.  I went over to Tina’s a couple of times when the BBC were still there, Diarmuid was sitting in the garden chair overlooking the garden and I have to say he was a really bad flirt.  The gardeners were in the process of installing a weaving wooden walkway that was elevated off the ground and lead to a large shed that resembled an Armadillo at the back.  There was a metal ball/sphere to the left and a place for the hammock to go on the right.  Along the pathway were rushes and ferns which meant that the only lawn that they had in the garden was a very small circle - hardly big enough to do a kart-wheel in.  This was all happening while Diarmuid just sat and watched for a few minutes.  Once he’d done his filming he left.  He was a ‘designer’, which meant that he came up with the designs and that was it.  One day I went over there and I passed the prefab that was positioned at the front of the house.  I peered inside the open window to see one of the female ‘supervisors’ engrossed in a magazine - the power of surprise was too tempting for me so I said “Are they in?” quite loudly in order to startle her - it worked.  I’ve never seen someone leap so high from their chair in complete shock.  I just couldn’t resist laughing - that was the highlight of my morning.
     I asked Tina if she’d like to have lunch with Sally, which was accepted - so we made a date to do lunch.  Unfortunately they didn’t get on.  I invited Tracy to have lunch with Sally – unfortunately they didn’t get on either.  Tracy started to come over more; well - pretty much every day during the week and I started going to boot sales at the weekends.  While I missed going out - I didn’t miss the crap that went with it.
     I began thinking about my ‘career’ and what I would end up doing with my life so I began an online degree course for Psychology with the University of Derby.  I had the idea in my head that I would really like to be involved with forensic psychology; after all, I was used to all kinds of blood and gore and would just love to ‘sniff out the bad guy’ as I’d had enough of those in my life already.  If I could possibly become a criminal profiler - well, that would be absolutely marvellous.
     I was on Income Support so all the books required for the course had to come from the weekly allowance that I was already getting.  The conditions of the degree in order to get my university fees waived was that I had to complete three modules per semester, it was pretty rough going and I’d never been so broke in all my life.  It was actually worse than when I was homeless as I didn’t have any credit then.  My books (which were rather expensive) had to go on my credit card so I was becoming more and more in debt every semester.  On the upside - I knew that when I completed the course my ‘opportunities’ would be so much more than just owing quite a few quid.  The prospect of a career was so much more important, so I began to study my arse off.
     Around the same time, Tracy was busy studying for her beautician’s diploma and needed a couple of crash test dummies to undergo a manicure and pedicure.  I automatically stuck my hand up in the air and volunteered.  I also asked Tina if she’d like to partake in a luxurious hand and foot fondle and she agreed.  That’s when Tracy and Tina got to meet each other in a seemingly normal and relaxed way.  They got on which was a huge relief.  At the same time as doing my degree Andy was beginning to be a dick again. Just when I thought things had calmed down and we were heading down separate paths - he’d erupt over something and then threaten me with court proceedings.  A whole bunch of verbal abuse would normally come my way. Little did I know that the storm was just brewing once again.
     Tina had invited Vonny and I over for Christmas that year so we went and it was a really lovely day.  I had too much to drink so ended up crashing there.  The next day we got up and heard the news that there was an earthquake which in turn had caused the Asian Tsunami with catastrophic consequences; it was thee most depressing ending and beginning of any year.

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