I did a Masterclass on YouTube the other day and I began by telling the class a little of my background, and it felt strange to hear my voice saying all the things I did (left out half of it, lol) – I recall thinking, ‘blimey, have I really done all of that?’
So here’s a little of my background.
Ran my own restaurant aged 18 – 20; did all the shopping, cooking, serving etc. I would make a huge batch of beef curry in the afternoon for tomorrow, and meanwhile do the set-up for the nights trade, glasses, cutlery, fresh tablecloths and so on, then close the shop, dash home to shower and change, and come back and waitress and serve. Busy days, loved it and it taught me the value of following through, doing one job from go to whoa.
I tried to buy it outright from the always absent owners but at 18 I looked 12, and the bank manager wasn’t going to loan me any money, even with my father sitting beside me. Thanks dad for your support and belief in me.
Then I moved to NSW and Taree, where I worked in a Greek café for a couple of years, learning to make coffees and deal with bus coaches and people management. (Just before I arrived, the Woolworth’s Bomber blew up the local supermarket in Taree. It turned out to be my old boss Greg, who owned the restaurant in Rockhampton, bizarre! He was jailed.)
The boss wouldn’t give me a day off for my 21st, so I also learnt that even though you can work your heart out, reward and appreciation doesn’t necessarily follow. After that a brief stint in Waltons selling crappy typewriters to students, and LED watches that continually broke. I was embarrassed to sell junk rubbish like that, and learnt to deal in quality as it repays you time and again. No, that’s wasn’t a watch pun, but cheers for asking, lol.
After a while I read about a job vacancy in the Manning River Times, and so I went in on a Melbourne Cup day for my interview. It was 2pm. I rang first, to say “uh, you DO realise it’s Melbourne Cup Day, and the race will be on?” I was told to come on in anyway, regardless of the race, or the Cup. I learnt that not everyone shares the same interests as me, and that things I hold important aren’t necessarily so for others. We all have different priorities. I became the first female to be employed by the paper as an Advertising Representative. John Doust was my boss, and I grew to adore him, and his gruff, kind ways. We both shared a wicked sense of humour and used to love to play tricks on each other, good times. I looked on him as a father figure, and he will always be a top man in my books. Thanks JD. I worked there for nearly 4 years, looking after my clients and taking home marketing books to read over the weekend, arriving fresh Monday morning bursting with ideas and inspiration. I loved my little 2nd storey flat overlooking the glorious manning River, squeezed behind the shops and pub.
Taree was then blessed with 3 pubs and then the 4th would be built in bushland, but I would usually go to the middle pub whose name I have forgotten. The Exchange? It doesn’t matter, but I would sit in the small cocktail bar no one ever used; it was private and a touch above the beer swill out the back. Over time other friends would join me there, and we built up a small group of mates. I called the bar The Wankers Bar, and Jeff the publican made a sign for me, and hung it proudly over the counter. We even had an opening, and for once, I was on the other side of the counter. He gave me a huge farewell, we could barely fit into the tiny space, and they bought me a briefcase as a farewell gift.
At a conference I met some blokes from The Land Newspaper, and soon afterwards I began working for The Land, based in Dubbo. In those days I drove my little Suzuki 4wd, and I asked the comp boys to make me a sign: DUBBO OR BUST. I bought a large white teddy bear I named Patrick, so Patrick the bear and I set off on our adventure. I bought a map at the service station going out of town, as I had no idea where Dubbo even was, just somewhere vaguely west and south of Taree. Actually it’s almost a straight line west, and it took me 7 hours at 100km with a stiff wind behind me. I’d never seen such open space, the land yawned ahead of me.
I’d miss the weekends when I’d ring my dear friend Merrilyn, and say “We’re going up the beach, wear your bra!” Some days we would drive all the way along the beach and arrive at Port Macquarie, buy some shoes, and drive home via the highway, stopping in at a pub to refresh ourselves.
We’d bounce and laugh and lurch along, and sing to Donna Summer; all the way up the rough bush tracks that ran parallel to the coast, before the tiny entrance, hidden by coastal heath bushes, revealed the glorious wild beaches north of Taree.
Crowdy Bay. Diamond Head.
Collecting sea urchins washed up by storms. Great stands of Banksia, standing proud above the bushland. White sands; patches of Christmas Bells and tiny Melaleuca flowers. Waving to lonely fisherman as we drove past, windows down, our hair tousled by the salty wind, flocks of seagulls rising and settling, leaving the soft echo of Donna Baby, and our chat and laughter.
I am constantly drawn back in my mind to those beaches. Our dear family friend Kylie Tenant wrote her book Man on a Headland, about that area. (She also wrote about our family, in Speak You So Gently). Only once did I think I was bogged on the sand. A rising tide, a setting sun, I had become too involved in looking at EVERYTHING and my little Suzuki, affectionately known as ‘The Eggbeater’ just sat there helplessly revving. No mobile phones in those days, and I began to panic. “You can’t bog a Suzuki! It’s impossible” I roused on myself, but I had simply knocked the gear out and it was sitting in neutral. Whew. I drove home wiser and I learnt to check things before panicking.
Again, I was the first female to be employed at The Land, as a travelling Rep. Often I would drive 500kms in a day, say from Dubbo to Parkes/Forbes, Bathurst and back to Dubbo, pulling into my driveway at 11pm, met by my lonely cat. I loved working for such an established newspaper, and enjoyed the whistles between the teeth by male dominated businesses (agricultural equipment, irrigation supplies etc) as I walked through the door.
My God! It’s a young woman!
I soon learned to wear gumboots as routine when my gorgeous light purple pumps were ruined in the mud at Orange National Field Days. I walked around in my ivory silk pants suit, and briefcase. *blush, yeah, I know, I know, you don’t have to laugh out loud. That night it snowed, (it was November) and I turned up for work the next day dressed in thick jumpers (new) and white short gum boots (new) and a clipboard. Much better! I learnt to walk in my own shoes and bugger what other people thought.
After a year of Dubbo, The Land transferred me to live in Newcastle, doing the coastal strip of repping, down to and including Sydney. In those days they had just moved to Windsor, so I learnt to take short cuts to Wiseman’s Ferry, and it was just another hurdle and adventure to be had.
I enjoyed living in Newcastle in my 2 storey terrace, and began to churn out poetry with a passion. Each afternoon I would push away from my desk and drive all along the beaches, from Nobby’s and then south, right down until it would be time to stop watching the waves and the setting sun, and go home to cook dinner for one. I would often visit the art gallery in my suburb of Cook’s Hill, sitting on the long bench in front of the Brett Whitley painting I so adored. On weekends I would drive to the Hunter – having first been there as a 20 yo.
I began to know the wine makers, and they knew and liked me too, often sharing with me their special bottles and ‘good gear’. The public never saw these bottles. I had a great collection! It always helped when I said I worked for The Land, as it was known as the Farmer’s Bible, then, and still is today. Years later Jim Roberts, from Bellbourie Winery (now closed) rang me when I lived in Toowoomba. “Patty, I’m dying, can you come?”
We cried together on the phone. He said: I don’t even know why I’m ringing you; you are the same age as my daughter. But I knew. We were connected.
We sobbed again, together.
I jumped on the overnight bus straight away, and helped Jim and his grown family pick a late harvest of Madeira grapes. We bottled and labelled it that day, laughing and calling it “Mad Era” as it was a crazy time: with Harley’s Comet overhead; as we helplessly watched our beloved Jim become frail from cancer. I still have 2 bottles Jim, plus the port bottle I had a cartoonist design for you, remember? They are safe with me. Rest old boy. All is well. Although Jim was very clear what he wanted for his funeral, it didn’t happen, and I learnt that you need to respect people’s wishes, even if you don’t agree with them. Jim, your jazz band and wine appreciation soirée didn’t happen. Sorry mate.
So anyway, I am driving up and down to Sydney, and Port Macquarie, and all points in between, having to drive twice back to Dubbo to train my replacement. It took me 7 hours each way, and I would sing to the Little River Band. Sing loud! I cannot imagine a life without music.
After another year of this, The Land placed me in Qld, to be the first Qld Sales manager, also repping for Qld Country Life, based in Toowoomba. At least I was closer to my parents and family! I rented a dear little 1 br round house at Murphy's Creek, (below the range) on 5 acres; and bought myself chooks, a rooster, geese and a naughty cocker spaniel puppy; to keep my cat company. Each day I would feed the magpies and chooks; at night I would feed five possums and the owls who would gather to swoop on the insects and moths attracted by my outside lights. God I loved that house.
I filled another book with my poetry.
I began a media club with 500 members. I called it RAPT, Radio, Advertising, Press and Television. Toowoomba has one of the highest percentages of media around, with both local and capital city television stations. I published regular newsletters and we met monthly. It folded after a boozy lunch with Waynee Poo Roberts who swore like a mad trooper, and annoyed a lot of people. I copped the blame for that, but how was I to know who he was? I learnt to stick up for myself, and also that no matter what you do for people, there will always be someone that begrudges you, and makes life difficult.
Fast forward to another year and by now I am living in Toowoomba; living in a share house perched on the rim of the range, driving in the fog, and becoming a little lonely. I began to read books on childbirth. One night my housemate named Scrubber (whose brother went on to write a best selling novel Praise) climbed through my bedroom window at 2am. What are you reading Snide? (My nickname then, long story) “Birth, and enemas” I replied, barely glancing at him. "Oh," he said, and with that Scrubber stumbled off to his own room. I learnt that at a certain age, nothing surprises me anymore.
Another change was needed! I bummed a lift overnight in a semi with a friend of a friend, and applied to the Sydney Morning Herald as Advertising Rep. At this stage I had met my husband to be when I worked briefly at an Advertising Agency. I bought a block of land and began to plan my dream house, an A-frame. With chooks!
When the job was given to me at the Herald, I was completely torn. To stay, to go? I moved everything to Balmain (I was pretty skilled at packing by now, yeah) and shared a gorgeous terrace with a very un-gorgeous man who would drag women home, shout at them and bang them all night. Just saying. If only I were DEAF! He told me I wrote like James Joyce. I'd never heard of him, and still haven't read him. Perhaps in my old age, when I find the time? I learnt that sometimes my company is the best company to have.
After I while I questioned what the heck I was doing down there, so moved again (!) back to Brisbane to live with my now husband Chris. He was a rep too, for Holden, so I would drive him to the airport each Monday morning, and collect him Friday afternoons. I spent all day each week by myself, and by now, I was pregnant, so I needed a birth centre. Enter Boothville Mother’s Hospital. I delivered our first son here, and I was totally shocked at the wonder of him. I felt like I had robbed the whole world of its beauty, and placed them all within his dear little face. Even writing that sentence can make my weep with joy at the memory. Never underestimate birth mothers, haha.
In two years time I would be organising a rally of 500 women and families, to protest against it’s closure by the Salvation Army. The Sunday Sun came to photograph me with my toddler son, and I boastfully threatened to “push this pram to Sydney if I have to, to keep the doors open for birth mothers and their families.” When this was reported in the paper the next day, I turned to my husband and said “do I have to walk to Sydney now?” He assured me that he would be my backup vehicle, but it never happened, thank goodness, but we did keep the doors open for another 5 years. It was at this time I was fortunate enough to meet some dear friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, and together we 3 girls coped with pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, breastfeeding and so on. Meeting after meeting, press calls, marketing plans, billboards, radio interviews, speaking engagements harnessing the power of women and families.
During this time we all sat on the hospital board as consumers, and I would often pinch myself as the Minutes would be handed out, or I would field a call from the Medical writer from the Courier Mail. How did I get to here? Sitting on a Private Hospital board? I did all the marketing, flying down on a jump-seat with Ansett to present a marketing plan to the Salvation Army in Sydney. I was 30 weeks pregnant. My friend CJ did all the girly stuff, the cake stalls, the networking. Fiona did all the accounts and books, she kept us in the red, and we were busy, busy. Four pregnancies. Three Births. Two sons. My joy, my life, my amazing sons.
I learnt if you truly believed in something, then get out and fight for it. Be passionate. Never be ashamed to stand up and be counted. Things matter! Become involved in your community and reward and Blessings will follow you.
During this time, to amuse myself from the day-to-day grind of saving Boothville, I began to ring the radio station and enter competitions and so on. Everyone talked, so I thought ‘I’ll sing!' and so I would create songs and make up lyrics on the spot. I did this for nearly 2 years, until one night Chris came home and announced he had dobbed me in to be a guest announcer on 4QR Abc Radio, (now 612 Brisbane) at the football in Lang Park. I immediately applied with a pounding heart, (I am a radio girl, as well as newspapers, spent my entire teenage years chatting to the DJ’s between songs each weekend, loved it) and to cut a long story short, found myself at my first ever football match with Gerry Collins and Chris Avenel. Gerry and I remembered each other from the Dubbo newspaper days, so it was a relaxing night and very different for me. I had no idea what I was doing, but it had never stopped me before. I learnt to go with the flow, and hang on for dear life. What a ride!
The following week I was in the radio studios and bumped into Peter Dick. We chatted and he asked me about 100 questions, and offered me the job of Roving Reporter, the first for any ABC Radio station in Australia. We broke almost every rule, giving away tickets and petrol and prizes, and we rated our heads off. What great days.
I was the public face of Breakfast for that station for 4 ½ years and moved on after a series of bizarre muck ups with my pay and a change of direction with the Breakfast Show becoming a more serious show with current events. There was no room for bridge climbing, tandem parachuting or other 'housewife adventures'. The best job I ever did was over, and I was over it, and so threw myself into my children’s’ school committees, becoming President of the P&C and installing one of the first web sites for schools. I did ask everyone I knew to design a website for us, but no one was game to take it on. "How hard can this be?" I thought, and so over a weekend and with a template, I created an 8 page website.
I think in those days there were only 3 or 4 schools on the net, and we were one of them. I had invited the Governor and his wife to help us ‘cut the cake’ for the school’s Foundation Day, and to launch our website. The three television stations all turned up with their cameras and reporters. I was in the administration office, sobbing, on the phone to Telstra, who were trying to get our site fpt’ed up onto the net. Giddy days, but I did it, we launched the site, and within a year I began webcasting our special school events with my webcam.
In order to learn what to do (it can’t be that hard, can it?) I began my own webcam site, with the intention to call it Magpie cam, as I fed my loyal and greedy magpies each day, but I soon changed my mind and then Pattycam.net was born!
I had Pattycam.net for 10 years, and if you click there now I understand it’s a porn site, so yeah. It’s amusing to me now to see people now embracing Twitter and Facebook, when I have had a decade of message boards, tagboards and so on with my own site. I dislike how judgmental people are, unfollowing others and blocking on a whim. Oh well. It's a reflection of the society we now live in, where knockers and whingers complain endlessly and mock anyone and everything.
So now what do I do, how have I evolved? Now I am a Funeral Photographer, and I design photo books and create DVD’S for 18th, 21st and 50ths and so on. I love it. The other day I gave a Masterclass on YouTube video creation. Go figure. Trying to teach in four hours what it’s taken me 10 years to learn, from the early days of creating my files and driving them on a disc to be transferred to video tapes. No one had a DVD then.
I want to pursue my writing and who knows what’s around the corner? Life is a wave and I’m riding the crest, I’m not one to be left in the wash and flotsam.
Our two beautiful, intelligent and thoughtful sons are pursuing their dreams and study. The house is once again empty, childhood seems like a dream. I am an Empty Nester, and as busy as I ever was. Each day is beginning; each night shuffles us towards our death. Life is grasped with both hands, gentle on the steering wheel, full steam ahead; relaxed thumbs.
At times I glance in the rear view mirror; you need to know where you have travelled from, in order to reach your new destination.
I don’t often know what I’m doing, but does anyone on the net? It’s a constantly changing thing. It’s another challenge to overcome and an opportunity to learn. The view is great!
Thanks for reading.
NOTE: Please understand that this is a very quick, very simple explanation of my life, to show me more than anyone what I have learnt. If I haven't mentioned you, or given you credit or honour, I apologise now, but please understand it's just a very quick scribble, and I may come back and flesh out more details as they surface. I just can't write 52 years of my life in 3 hours, sorry. Please don't be offended.
What I have learnt, is that even when it's all about me, it isn't. :)