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The Write Way

17 March 2006

They Can't Take That Away from Me


When I was a mere slip of a girl of 12, I was fortunate because I had not one, but two first-best-friends. One had been my best mate since we were 9, and the second we both met up with in our first year of High School. The three of us then became the nucleus of a group of six girls who were known throughout our five years of secondary education as The Gang. Now this was the early 60s, and I must stress that our "gang" was a friendship gang, not a marauding gang!

Of our original three, one was a brunette, one a blonde and I was the redhead ... I only tell you this so you can keep track of our heroines as the story unfolds ... (You met my brunette friend last year when I told you about our visit to her place on the Great Ocean Road.) 

Fade to a warm, early-autumn afternoon in the mid-sixties ... No, let's be precise here, it was in fact Saturday, 5 March 1966, and for all intents and purposes it was still summer ... 

All six members of The Gang have finished their first year of University (and passed) and are filling in time before the first semester of the new year starts. The scene is my home, the phone rings. It's my girlfriend (the blonde), and we discuss what we're going to do that night. 

The fateful decision is made ... We'll go to the Civic.

The Civic is the Civic Centre, one of the larger municipal council buildings about 10 train-stops from where we live, and every Saturday night, the large Hall at the Centre is the venue for a dance. (Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and my best mate Google, I can even show you a picture of the Civic. )

So the two of us arrange to meet on the train, and off we go to Hurstville.

When we alight, we check the time and note that the dance is just about starting. As everyone knows, it doesn't do to appear too keen at times like these, so we head to Parry's Milk Bar and have a chocolate milkshake to fortify ourselves for the dancing ahead.

We still like to think we made a striking pair, with my friend in her black and white dress with the shoestring straps and me in my sleeveless white shantung silk shift dress and my hair long ā la Ann-Margret. (What's that? Of course I remember what we were wearing! Doesn't everyone at times like this?)

Now ... where were we? Ah yes ... on our way to the dance ...

Because this suburb was the commercial centre of the district, it was blessed with two dance venues, and while we patronised both at various times, this particular night we decided against the Rivoli, which had lots of flashing coloured lights and rock and roll music. Tonight we were dressed for Big Band music and in the mood for the Canadian Three-Step, Pride of Erin and (of course) the progressive Barn Dance. 

We checked our purses in, hid the tickets in our shoes (well, where else can you put them?) and made our Entrance. Before too long, we were both tripping the light fantastic, and at some stage in the evening, the band struck up, 'They Can't Take That Away from Me.' 

At that moment, a lanky red-headed bloke with a big smile sauntered up, said, "D'you want to dance?" followed it up, cool as anything, with "D'you come here often?" and I was smitten. To cut a long story short (Huh! You wish!) the two of us have been dancing together ever since.

But wait! There's more ...

It was one of the unwritten Laws of Mates that if one person got a lift home, you always checked in with your girlfriend and offered her a lift, too. So having accepted a lift from the future Love of My Life, I waited for my friend at the Cloak Counter to see if she needed a lift home. But as it happens, she was waiting for me to see if I needed one.

And before you shake your head at the thought of two 18-year-old girls accepting lifts from strangers, all I can say is that this was the 60s and a much more innocent age than the present. Our parents felt completely confident letting us catch trains at night, walk unescorted through town and then come home with boys we'd just met at dances ... We never let our daughter do anything like it when she was that age!

So there we were on that balmy Saturday evening in 1966, two girls who'd been friends for the past six years, heading home with two blokes we'd met at the Civic ...

Fast forward to last weekend, and what do we find, dear reader? Those same two friends with the same two blokes celebrating the 40th anniversary of our night at the Civic!

My friend and I married within a few of months of each other, had our babies about the same time a few years later and have been friends ever since. It's not often we manage to meet up in person, relying on phone calls, email and even old-fashioned letters to keep up with all the comings and goings in our lives, but we decided that 40 years called for a special effort. 

Yamba Bound!

So last weekend, we met at the little coastal town of Yamba in the Northern Rivers region of NSW because it's half-way between their place on the Central Coast and our place in Brisbane. See Yamba for yourself. 

Yamba is at the mouth of the Clarence River (as you can see in the photo) and over the years, the government has spent a motza on breakwaters to protect the fishing fleet (and recreational boaties) who use what was once a very dangerous outlet. 

Since we were surrounded by the wet stuff, we decided that we should spend some of our time on the water, so Sunday saw us cruising up the river to the accompaniment of a Jazz group, and I have to say, that for a way to spend a lazy Sunday arvo, that was pretty hard to beat!

But the time, as it always does in situations like these, went way too fast, so we've decided to do it all again ... same time next year! 

It's good to do something to celebrate special events in life, don't you think? And we all have them ...Just think for a moment about all the oodles of wonderful experiences in your life ... 




Keep searching those little grey cells because this week's Little Something Extra is just what you need! 

And since it's St Patrick's Day, those of you with Irish ancestors will also find a little something of interest. No ... that's all I have to say for the moment.  


This week's quiz:

Match each word with its meaning:

1. impugn

2. indigent

3. languish

4. metamorphosis

5. microcosm

6. nominal

7. obtuse

8. parsimonious

9. patrician


magic transformation

lacking quickness of intellect

excessively frugal

world in miniature

having upper class manners

challenge in argument

narrow tastes

in name only

to exist in miserable conditions

to experience need

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If you've received this little missive from a friend, you can get your very own issue, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every Friday morning by clicking here: 

Here's a story to gladden the heart of all with Irish blood flowing through their veins...

Spanish singer, Julio Iglesias was on television with British TV host Anne Diamond when he used the word 'maņana'. Diamond asked him to explain what it meant. He said that the term means, "Maybe the job will be done to-morrow, maybe the next day, maybe the day after that. Perhaps next week, next month, next year. Who cares?" 

The host turned to Irishman, Shay Brennan who was also on the show and asked him if there was an equivalent term in Irish. 

"No. In Ireland we don't have a word to describe that degree of urgency," replied Brennan.

Last week's quiz:

Column A contains the Australian/UK word, column B the US equivalent - fill in the blanks:

A. Australian 

B. US 

e.g. footpath






















It seems I've been misleading you with some of my terms from last week's quiz ...

Katy Brezger commented, " think we, in the US use the word Lorry (truck) but if we do, I have never heard it, and I've lived ALL over the US. Just want you to know I actually do read this every week."

And Eileen Clark wrote, "Lolly to an Australian is a small piece of confectionery that can be sucked or chewed. English persons call this a sweet, and our US cousins call it candy, I believe. Lolly to a Pom is money (cash, dosh, filthy lucre, you get the picture)."

Thanks for the corrections! And for anyone planning to travel across the Pond (in either direction), here's a nifty site with a list of the differences. 


Did you know that every newsletter is archived? So if you've missed anything since 1998 or want to revisit some favourites, you can do so any time! 

Don't forget to bookmark the page when you get there ... or even make it your Home Page. (For Internet Explorer, just click on Tools ... Internet Options ... General ... fill in and click OK. For Netscape, select Edit ... Preferences. Then select Navigator from the left menu, click Home Page and enter the URL above next to Location and click OK.)

Never-Ending Story

An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and that rottweiller ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot!  Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

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A Little Something Extra

Ok ... I hope your little grey cells have been working behind the scenes recovering lots of memories. Now's the time to do something with them!

You may think that writing a family history is something only famous people do, but every single person has a lifetime of stories to share, and every one of us has a guaranteed, rapt audience in the form of our family and friends. But there are other reasons you should write your family history. This is what Lillie Ammann, Editor-in-Chief of Your Information Center, has to say about the importance of recording family memories:

"After my dad died, my mother didn't want to do anything but sit around and grieve. I finally convinced her to go a writing conference with me by telling her I needed her company. After sitting in on an essay-writing workshop, she decided to try her hand at writing an essay. That was the beginning ...

"Her little experiment in writing an essay led to a series of stories that captivated her children and grandchildren and turned into a family legacy."

Here are five more reasons from Lillie why you should seriously consider putting pen to paper or dainty digit to keyboard and writing about your life:

1. To preserve cherished family traditions. As families move apart, children and grandchildren forget the meanings of traditions, or even the traditions themselves.

2. To appreciate the challenges in your life. In reviewing your life, you can see how you were shaped by the difficulties you faced and your responses to those difficulties.

3. To demonstrate the results of your good choices. If your descendants think you achieved your success because of luck, your life story will show them the choices you made and the actions you took to accomplish what you did.

4. To give purpose and meaning to your life or the life of an elderly relative. Compiling a family story can provide meaningful activity for someone who may have thought their useful days were over.

5. To develop new skills and enhance skills you already have. You can improve your writing skills, learn about genealogy and history ... maybe make new discoveries about yourself.

Inspired to research and write about your past? Then start now ... Learn how to create a family history

And for those of us with Celtic blood, here's how to research your Scottish and Irish ancestors.  

For our 'Murkin cousins ... how to use the US census to research your ancestors. 

And let's finish with another Irish story ...

A man was on a walking holiday in Ireland. He became thirsty so decided to ask at a home for something to drink. The lady of the house invited him in and served him a bowl of soup by the fire. 

There was a wee pig running around the kitchen, running up to the visitor and giving him a great deal of attention. The visitor commented that he had never seen a pig this friendly. 

The housewife replied, "Ah, he's not that friendly. That's his bowl you're using." Source

Word of the week: Ultracrepidarian (adj) Relating to speaking or offering opinions on subjects you know nothing about

If you're writing about yourself and your own life, there's no way you can be accused of this!

Oxymoron of the week: boring life

And this week's Latin phrase may come in handy if you happen to be partying with the Beautiful People ...

Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri? 

[kwoh-MOH-doh KOH-gees KOH-mahs TOO-ahs SEEK wee-DAY-ree?]

(How do you get your hair to do that?)

Kind regards,


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Copyright 2006 Jennifer Stewart

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