Inspiration for posts come from all directions, this time Dina is the culprit.
I was a teenager and good friends with a neighbour. Ann and I used to hang around together and no one could make me laugh like she could. Her mother Phyllis worked in a dress shop, and late night shopping Friday nights Ann and I would keep her mother company at the shop and walk her home.
I also grew to know and became friends with the owner of the shop. The last time I saw Bette, she and husband were running a milk bar with an attached residence in North Fitzroy.
The clothing shop was quite upmarket and Bette always looked so glamorous. Although she was short, her black hair was always teased up very high and with high heels on, she had quite a presence. Once when Bette was unwell, the local paper boy, Rick, and myself visited her at home. We were so shocked to see her hair down, dressed in casual clothes and without makeup. Had we seen her on the street, we would not have recognised her. Bette also spoke very well, a plumb in her mouth as my step mother used to say, yet she was anything but a snob. My father did some building work for her and they got on like a house on fire. I did notice them being slightly flirtatious with each other. Maybe she had tradie (tradesman) fantasies.
If anyone was a bit posh, it was Phyllis. She was tall and carried herself very well. But she had the catholic habits of smoking and drinking, always repenting at mass on Sundays. Once home on a Friday night, Phyllis would kick off her shoes, open a bottle of beer and we three sat in the lounge and watched the tv show Columbo. It was a fantastic show back in the days when the US used to make extremely entertaining television, and if you ever get a chance to watch an episode, do so. I hope it is not better in my memory that it actually was.
As we watched tv, at some point Ann's father would arrive home from the pub. Phyllis would ignore him as he stood swaying in the doorway, saying nothing for at least ten minutes until eventually Phyllis would say, 'Can you bugger orf Norm', and a few minutes later he would burst out, 'Bed for me. No funny business now', and I could feel his eyes staring into the back of my head. 'No Mr Hutchenson, good night'.
By this time Phyllis was on her second bottle of beer and getting quite cheerful. By the end of Columbo, her words were becoming slurred and as step mother mentioned once, she rather loses her poshness when she has a drink. I can recall she would always lose her 'g' from ing words after a drink.
For how long did this Friday night ritual go on? I can't remember. Months? More than a year? It all came to an abrupt end when Ann was diagnosed with a brain tumour and a month or so later died at the age of sixteen. I last saw Ann at the Peter MacCallum hospital and to see her without hair, thin and trying to smoke an Escort cigarette (join the club,join the club, join the Escort club) was quite distressing. I left the hospital and caught one of the new fangled lurching Z trams to the station. The seated conductor was very disagreeable. I don't recall going to Ann's funeral or ever seeing Phyllis or Norm again.
Yes, Ann did have a big set of knockers, but they were of no interest to me. Her laughter and wittiness was. It was she who was warned by the school nuns to not talk to boys through the cyclone wire fence, lest she became pregnant. Hmm, it is possible.