Not knowing any different, I believe I grew up in a very normal and stable household, I never had reason to question any decision mum and dad made. Looking back, I felt protected and even perhaps sheltered. So, while the decision to pick up and move to another country would have been a “family decision”, it was definitely a decision resting on mum and dads’ shoulders. I would just go along with the flow. In hindsight, however, I would have been perfectly happy to stay in Liverpool and I had visions of finishing school, probably would have gone to college, met someone, married and lived happily ever after. Yes, life was good - we had no phone, no proper bathroom; but hey, we had a roof over our head, a car and a washing machine! Socially, we were forced to physically go out and visit friends and relatives - a novel idea. As a loving, caring family, we forged relationships with neighbours, friends and even had most, if not all of our relatives, living literally across the street. We had a future - or did we?
It wasn’t until mum’s diagnosis and hearing the words from Dr. Shief (sp), that the reality started to sink in. Although two previous attempts had been made, it wasn’t until 1965, through a government-sponsored re-population program, did we decide to take the plunge and just do it! Our choices were Australia, Nevada or Canada; the latter being our destination of choice. The task of completing all the paperwork would begin.
As the day drew closer and more and more items were disappearing from the house, a myriad of emotions overwhelmed me and I found myself asking questions: Would I fit in? Would I make new friends? What was Canada like? Where would we live? Would we have an indoor bathroom? What would the weather be like? What about my swimming? What about the boat ride? What if the boat sank? What if I got sick? On the other hand, I was happy that it would be something new, something different; I was upset that I’d be leaving my friends behind; I was angry we couldn’t take all our belongings with us; I was sad we were leaving; I was afraid; and although I wouldn’t show it, I was scared to death!
Although I probably didn’t have too much to say about it at that time, I’m sure that selling-up and/or giving away our worldly possessions was not exactly easy for mum or dad. After all, they had lived at #28 since they had been married and had Bob and me and had accumulated quite a bit over the years. Personally, I didn’t have a whole lot of stuff, but I still had a hard time trying to figure out exactly what would go with me and what would stay behind - it was quite a challenge. Even though I had just turned 13, I still had a passion for my dolls and had a few. I was told I could just take one.
We spent our last night in Liverpool on April 4, 1966 at the Strathmore Hotel on Upper Parliament Street. I remember a lady and her little girl coming to say goodbye and the little girl had a koala bear in her arms. The next thing I remember is mum telling me that I’m 13 years old and way too old to be playing with dolls. Then she gently persuaded me to hand over the doll to this little girl. In the end, we traded my doll for her koala bear which I have to this day a memory of our last night in the U.K.
With virtually the clothes on our back, carrier bags and an old steamer trunk, we boarded the Empress of England on April 6, 1966 for our supposed 6 day cruise to our new home. The trip on this hotel on water, weighing in at 25,585 gross tons was a re modeled passenger ship and was overwhelming; a far cry from the trips we used to make on the ferry boats to Birkenhead across the Mersey! In retrospect, I vaguely remember the trip in a positive way as I was so seasick, I understand mum paid the on-board doctor ten shillings (£0.10.00) to inject me with something so I'd sleep. It wasn't until later on in life that I would realize my sickness was perhaps something other than being "at sea" as I found myself on many occasions to be “on board” smaller ships and boats and while on deck I was fine; however, once inside, I got sick. In all likelihood, I was probably suffering from claustrophobia--which plagues me, thankfully not critically, to this day.