I dedicate this story to all the people who were about to give up but never did. I’ve been told I could write my story. Over the years, I have tried many times to put it together only, but this time I’m going to persevere…
by Ralph L. Perrin
I thought it would be good to start my experiences the day I decided to retire. Giving up is not the word I ever think of anyhow. I still have my family to look after; my daughter and her three children and not forgetting my dear wife who has stood by me throughout the last thirty years. You will find that the following has been mixed up a bit going from one point to another – please forgive me – you see what happened in my life only comes to me on some occasions when I am in the mood to write or even open my mind to the unhappiness of the past it is only the future that holds prospect of happiness as I know I can do something about my future. The past has gone, nothing will ever make it better. When things are going bad I say to myself several times a day “Every day and in every way I am getting better and better”. I’ve been told this quote works, and it does.
The day it all changed
Going good at school physically really fit, my mum had just went into hospital for a gallbladder problem. Grandma was looking after me and my brother. One day my brother borrowed a football from the neighbour and we went to the local park which was on the other side of the Hume Highway to kick the football around. On the way home my brother and I had an argument and I decided to run off. At the time I was around seven years old. At that time us kids were very independent not like today anyhow I failed to see a car that was travelling a little too fast. I was hit. My brother later told me I was thrown into the air. I was very lucky our family doctor was practising nearby and gave me treatment which saved my life I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for his quick thinking. I spent about six weeks in a coma, left with a fractured tibia and fibia, fractured arm and, if you hadn’t guessed it by now, a fractured skull. I needed surgery to remove some pressure from my brain otherwise I may have died, they couldn’t tell my family at the time of any damage to my brain but as I became older I was told with those sorts of injuries I would have suffered brain trauma. Funny thing, just recently the brain specialist told me after some extensive tests that I have no signs of a brain injury. It’s beyond me. Other doctors have told me there is no way at this stage medical science can detect any brain injury within the brain I’m feeling somewhat confused. I can still remember waking up from the coma I couldn’t move, the doctors had plastered my left leg and left arm.
I don’t remember any of the time at home Mum must have been taking me for physio and other treatment. My brother tells me I was off school for six weeks. The day my mum took me down to see the school to start pre-school everyone told me whenever I tried to run “not to run” this was my first disappointment. Running was what I loved before the accident you would see me running everywhere. I have very little memory of the period except not being able to compete in the carnival days, the teachers being very strict with all the students. You had only had to do one thing they didn’t like and you ended up with getting a sixer across your hand I was lucky I never had the sixer. Later in high school I remember getting a couple across the hand and it really hurt. The kids of today don’t know how lucky they are.
This day was so exciting I thought it would be a fantastic experience. How wrong I was. The first year went ok but as soon as puberty clicked in – what was happening to me – not another disaster I thought to myself. Year two high school I thought to myself why are the girls swelling up in all sorts of places. Why was all this hair growing all over my body. I asked my mum “what’s happening”. The only answer was ask your brother and you know I never got a proper answer because people back then wouldn’t even talk about toilet paper. And “why don’t my old friends from earlier play with me”. Whats’ going on? All the students loved to stir me up make me angry. I wanted to catch them and wring their necks but I couldn’t catch them. The only subjects I did well in were Science, English, Social Studies. I started to practice the trumpet. I couldn’t read music but could follow what was being played. A very kind fellow student used to take me to the play area. He played the music then I would copy him. I loved playing the trumpet – in my case it was the flugal horn. I managed to be good at it and the music teacher let me play in the school band. A friend told me why don’t you join the Yagoona boy’s band. This was a great idea, the only problem was I couldn’t read music. My ear was good for music, I just copied the other players. I remember the bandmaster hearing me play “Home, Sweet Home” and he must have thought this kid could play a ripieno – that is like a solo instrument just behind the 1st cornet players. It’s funny now that I think about it the bandmaster yelled at the 1st cornet players telling them why are they playing so terribly and they yelled back “It’s Ralph!”. I don’t know what I was playing but it must have been awful, They left me playing 3rd cornet that was easy I just had to copy the fellow besides me.
Music took away the pain of not being one with the world I felt I didn’t fit in. I still feel like this today. Only now I don’t play my trumpet. I play with my grandchildren and help my daughter clean up around her house and my wife is always on my back to do something around the house. I suppose she is worried I would just sit around and waste away.
Studying music at the conservatorium of music
When I left school and wasn’t working, my brother helped me to enrol in the conservatorium of music where they taught me how to play the trumpet and read music. After a while the teacher found that I would be able to play in the conservatorium orchestra. I could play the music and all that is required, but the problem was I had always played solo by myself and couldn’t listen to the other players which is very important when playing in a orchestra. The conductor found out this and recommended that I join the military band. I could play well but had trouble with playing with a group of other people. It could have been that the strain of playing exhausted me like everything has done ever since the car accident. I enjoyed playing my trumpet at home for the neighbours as long as no one could see me I felt fine.
Civilian maimed and limbless – St Peter’s
It turned out by year nine I was not going to be able to fulfil my dream of becoming a lawyer. I spent most of my time at this stage in the sick room the school counsellor must have talked to my brother. One day I found myself in the counsellor’s rooms talking about working in a sheltered workshop. I thought to myself another change in my life here. I was thinking that I was going to get my high school certificate and heading on a path of exploration and happiness. Then this. I didn’t know what a sheltered workshop was. It wasn’t until the day my brother took me to St Peter’s to an old factory I can still smell the filth of the oil and grease the people there looked disabled and yet I thought to myself; I don’t look like them why am I here? My first day working there was a curiosity – all these weird people I can say that because back then there was no political correctness. At lunch time morning tea etc. I spent the time by myself usually eating out the back of the factory which was joined to the main factory – some foundry, as far as I know the building is still there. The tea they made tasted awful I couldn’t drink it. My job was working on a tapping drill – this machine puts the thread through a square-shaped thing with a hole in it. Another job I had was to screw a nut onto these u-type bolts. I became sick of this work after about twelve months. One day I left early the supervisor seen me at the railway station and said ‘what are you doing’ I said I am feeling sick. I lied. I never returned to the factory.
Civilian maimed and limbless – Lidcombe Hospital
At the time I was confused. I was a member of a gym lifting weights and all that sort of stuff trying to be normal just like everyone else, everyone was telling me to not do this type of of activity. No one ever explained to me why I hadn’t the brains to know any different. In the end, I became so ill that I didn’t know what to do, that’s most probably why I found myself a job at “civilian maimed and limbless” a politically-incorrect name, don’t you think? You wouldn’t believe what my job was: the hospital had these wool bales of rejected surgical pads that had to be pulled apart and the cotton placed into another bale. It took forever to fill these bales. I worked there with a fellow who was a cripple and another old bloke. It wasn’t long before I became bored and left this job. I absolutely detested working for the company. They gave me no responsibility. I needed a job that would give me self-esteem and respect.
My first paid employment
I, as usual, most days spent my time at Bankstown Commonwealth Employment office looking for a job. Arnott’s snacks needed a labourer-cleaner. I think I have mentioned this employer somewhere else in the story so I won’t repeat myself. I do a lot of that lately.
My second full time job
I was with a furniture manufacturer where I was employed as a wooden chair assembler. Being accident prone and not working fast enough they ended up sacking me after two weeks.
I can remember the day I was discharged from hospital. I was really excited waiting for my brother to pick me up. He had just bought a brand new car. the waiting seemed like an eternity. I can remember walking down to the back yard. It was like nothing I could explain. Nothing was familiar. I’d still had amnesia it was like being in a different world, nothing was familiar, I was lost and didn’t know what was happening. It was like being in a dream and not being able to wake up. It was so hard I’m still like this. It’s been like this for the last fifty-one years. The only people who could possibly know what it was like is those who had the misfortune of being in a similar situation. If they can explain what it is like you had better ask them but to me it was like a nothingness. After my return home the public school I was attending arranged for my kindergarten teacher from Bass Hill pre-school was good enough to come to where we lived in Yagoona to teach me and give me homework so I wouldn’t fall too much behind with my lessons. I’m sorry if I have written so much about what it’s like. It’s just it is so so sad that what I was I no longer could ever be the same person as I was.
I was away from school for about six weeks, The extra help must of been of some good. I passed most subjects English, Science, English. To this day I still love these subjects learning how everything works and being able to understand them because of my knowledge of English and Science. Unfortunately up until year six where the teacher was so cruel. She could not understand that I wasn’t acting and didn’t especially with mathematics understand the methods of calculation. She gave me a hard time, a really hard time at times, when I couldn’t understand how to do a particular sum she stood me beside her in front of the class and whenever I made a mistake she would hit me across my legs with the cane. Why my mum didn’t do anything about her behaviour is beyond me. Mum most probably thought I was being naughty. Please note I love mathematics and yet to this day I can’t learn the mathematics that I really want to learn advanced mathematics. I’m sad to say anything above long division I get stuck it is so frustrating. With my times tables to this day I could never get a handle on try as I can there is no way I can remember the times tables. I can remember the five times ten times and the eleven times tables because I can see a pattern. If there is not pattern to what I’m trying to learn I find it impossible to learn. For example, when I took on certificate four at Blacktown Tafe 2001 learning binary code was so hard that I near drove myself crazy trying to understand the principles of the mathematical formulas.
I can still remember some of the girls. I remember them being so kind in class which was year six who helped me to learn the mathematical tables not even with their help I could not learn the times tables. Was this because the teacher was so cruel and unkind and had not the least bit of kindness? if it were today the family would be screaming out for compensation. Talking about compensation – why didn’t my Mum file for compensation after the accident while it was fresh in the police department’s minds and still on file? Mum used to tell me when I asked her why didn’t you file for compensation and her answer was she didn’t want to have any blood money. It’s beyond me to imagine why my Mum was thinking like this. My life would have been a lot different if she had applied for compensation. I could have had the medical support that would have enabled me to live a just about normal life At this time I can’t remember ever having a normal child-like life. My Mum prevented me from doing any rough type sports as my ability to run, jump etc. was really hampered. I can still remember trying to learn to swim – as much as I tried I couldn’t do it it wasn’t until my late teens. I did eventually learn to swim, my brother always told me you swim like a duck. I didn’t care, it was fun. I can remember the sports day trying so hard to be first but as much as I tried I always came last. It hurt for most of my life all I did was try something and getting there but unable to sustain the activity or accomplishment I endeavoured and yet I have gained something I may not have been able to sustain whatever I was trying to succeed at but at least I gave it a go. The only thing to this day that I feel proud that I have achieved is my marriage thirty years this year 2010. We have a boy who now is twenty-seven and a daughter who is thirty-one years old. A bonus; my daughter has two daughters and a son.
I can only write this story when I get up around 6.30am for about a half an hour after that my wife gets up and starts her talking, talking, talking. It’s hard to imagine- I’m the very silent type and my wife likes to talk. Mainly she talks about the same thing over and over again. Again all I can say is I got myself into this situation and it’s up to me to find a way of dealing with it. Most days I can. The only downside to this is that I need to take 50mg of Serequal at night and at times 0.5mg of Xanax. If I avoid caffeine and any stimulants I can manage. On the subject of drugs since the year of 2000 I have been on diabetic medication. I think because of sitting around driving a ute around Sydney for a three years working as a courier for Access Industries. In case you don’t know this is a place of employment for disabled people and before that I was driving buses for Busways. I was employed as a bus driver driving passengers around western Sydney and on occasion a charter as far away as Oberon. I can’t remember offhand where every charter went. I did a charter to the city on several occasions. Whilst working for Row’s bus service – now known as Busways from I don’t remember the year but I think I was driving for them for about 6yrs as a part-time bus driver. I have had so many jobs over the years since 1968 that when I think of them as I’m writing I will give them a mention.
What I remember at Wallacia
The only memory I have of Wallacia is my Mum explaining to me calmly one day I was playing with the tap on the water tank. I can’t blame her this was our only water supply. If it run out that’s it. I don’t know if they had deliveries back then of water but anyhow Mum didn’t have the money to buy the water. All in my Mum and eldest brother together with Roy and myself we lived in this dilapidated shed for ten years. What I do remember was what family have told me. It seemed to have rained a lot at Wallacia that’s most probably why they put the dam at Warragamba.
Our first real home – Herne Bay
It was two years after I was born that we were given one of the army barracks at Herne Bay – now Riverwood. My uncle Archie must have told the Housing Commission that we had no decent place to live, at the time before we did move there was a massive flood. The rain was getting very heavy the roof leaked in the shack, the only dry place was my Mum’s bed, families were very close. There was no television, radio was for the rich. I can’t remember much – what I do know is what the family have told me. I can remember the following: running to school jumping over a creek – it must have been about a metre wide but it seemed like ten metres to me. At the time I was about four years old – running always running – I can remember chasing the clouds. I tried to catch them there was no way I could but I tried. The ladies during the winter months making hot chocolate for the children (now why don’t they do that anymore). Everyone around the area we lived were very poor. Memories of me and my brother Roy playing – running like the wind – we loved to play at the local tip (funny a freeway runs through what used to be our playing ground). We would find all sorts of things – toys, my teddy bear, we even found an old sewing machine – no electricity just foot power. We one day found this old mattress and used it as a boat on what used to be an old dam for the farmers. It was very dangerous but kids back then had no fear- we thought we were invincible. On rainy days my brother and his friends would plug up the hole in an old bath tub with mud and ride it down the storm drain to the Salt Pan Creek. Our Mum used to know we were playing where we were not supposed to because Cheeky her dog would come home smelling of the sewer which at that time was sent freely down the storm water channel and out onto the sea. Mum at once threw us into a disinfectant bath and we hated it. Mum scrubbed us with a cleaning scrubbing brush. It hurt. Why? Mum never stopped us from going there. I don’t know she didn’t like her husband and she probably wasn’t thinking straight and took it out on us. That’s ok, it was only the way people at that time knew how to deal with problems like this. I can remember playing in the Salt Pan Creek, sharks about, it didn’t worry us. No supervision, we were free and on our own. One time I can remember is one day I was playing by myself in the creek bed digging a tunnel into the side of the creek I must have been about four years old. Not surprisingly being sand it collapsed on me. Luckily, I was fit as a bull and could dig myself out. It was fun. Lucky Mum didn’t find out.
And the time my brother Roy, who was always wagging school,talked me into wagging school. One day we were thinking of waiting in this old burnt-out car for the sound of the school going home bell (kids can be silly some times). One of the parents seen me and my brother hiding in the old car so she told my Mum who gave us a beating and sent us off to school. I don’t know about my brother Roy but I never wagged school again.
The following it may appear all I did was work. In fact that’s all I did – my only interest was working. “Strange behaviour” you may say. Well you are right.
My first real job
My first job was working as a labourer for Arnott’s Snacks, Yagoona. To get to my job I rode my bike about ten kms there and back the work was very hard. My job was to clean out from under the machines the sodden filthy stinking muck from the manufacture of potato chips and to empty the rubbish bins. I can remember running around everywhere with my trolley putting down a empty 44 gallon plastic barrel then taking the full barrels outside to the dumpmaster that was the plastic paper etc. The slop of which Arnott’s sold to the pig farmers was a different story – these barrels weighed around 112 pounds. Don’t ask me what the metric measurement is (as you know my teacher from year six put an end to my my mathematical abilities) anyhow what’s done is done no point dwelling on the negative side of life, it won’t get you anywhere.
Back to the story: I was lifting these barrels around twenty times a night working night shift 3pm to midnight. I worked at this job for over a year at which stage I had a nervous breakdown, a really bad one. Because of this the doctors and my Mum told me I had to go to Mt Wilga Rehabilitation Centre. I wanted to go back on the pension which may have prevented a lot of the following but how would I have turned out – who knows?
Mt Wilga Rehabilitation Centre
A bus came to where I lived to pick me up and take us to Hornsby – I think it was Manor Road – there I attended motivation skills, wood-working, counselling, and physiotherapy. Every morning we had to run up this road and back about four kilometres. It was very hard but in the end I had what I didn’t have before – self-esteem. After about fifteen months of this they found me a job at Raco Kitchenware where I was employed as a shelf stacker. It’s funny now I think about it. We used to drag the finished product into the warehouse where it was taken to be stored away. My supervisor kept on to me – only drag a certain amount into the warehouse – I wanted to show that I was keen to do the job and wanted to make management happy with my work anyhow it ended up while the supervisor was doing something else I would drag all the crates into the warehouse. It ended up the worker’s in the warehouse didn’t have anywhere to work. I remember the supervisor always was angry with me. Because of this I was placed in another section of the factory to work going from one job to another. I bought myself a motor bike around this time. This was a mistake – the stress involved made me angry. I started to swear. It’s only when I’m stressed I get angry and swear. I didn’t go around swearing at everyone – it’s just the other traffic nearly knocking me off my motor bike made me very angry. It was a big mistake to leave this job. If only I had thought to talk to the counsellor at Mt Wilga, my life may have turned out a bit different. Having another nervous breakdown I guess didn’t allow me many options. It was about this time I’d joined the Army Reserve 130 Gun Locating, situated at Revesby.
My time as a soldier in the 130 Gun Locating Battery, Revesby
You may be saying how on earth did Ralph get into the Army Reserves? I lied about my disability – a big mistake. Lying has always put me in a very difficult situation. In the end it was a big mistake. I have always landed myself in trouble whenever I lied. When it came to a medical to enable me to gain something I thought I wanted like being normal, I just wanted to be like everyone else, working being fit and healthy to be able to do things everyone told me “I couldn’t do”. If someone told me “you can’t do that” I would do my best to prove them wrong. Strange I can’t remember anyone telling my why? I can’t go into what I was doing in the army reserves. You see all swore an oath that we would never tell anyone what our responsibilities were. I can tell you this: that firing guns, throwing bombs around and all that stuff didn’t work out. It just wasn’t something I enjoyed – all that noise, the NCOs – non-commissioned officers – yelling their instructions. To this day, I hate people yelling loudly. These officers must have thought they were far superior than everyone sitting on a high horse. I did enjoy the marching, the comradeship, the working with a team. In a way the discipline did me good – my stamina and my ability to overcome all obstacles most of which I was forced to find a way over the top of them. Anyhow all this noise was scaring the living daylights out of me. I can remember always being in trouble for the mess in my locker – it never pleased them, my bed was never made to their order. By the end of the first two week recruit course I at least just managed to please the sergeant by keeping my bed made the correct way. I remember the corporal saying you’re a bunch of mummy’s boys and your mum would be happy that you could make your bed. I loved the running and calisthenics, the team work, being a part of a group. I loved the marching. I still when I walk sometimes remember the drilling sergeant yelling – they always were yelling – each left step left- left it made me laugh. Sometimes he sounded like a barking dog, I enjoyed driving the Land Rover, dismantling the rifles and re-assembling them.
It felt good that my uncle, who was a second world war vet, was always talking about me to his old mates. For the very first time everyone was proud and looked up to me. I felt honoured and proud that I was defending Australia. My duties were mainly security and other stuff but as I said before I can not mention them. (Please note I never hurt anyone. The only one who was hurt during my stay in the army reserves was me!) The discipline left me in a quagmire of desperation going from one bad decision to another riding on a merry-go-round, going around and around jumping from one job to another. At this time I had worked my up the ladder and was about to be promoted to the head of my section where I was employed at Bearing’s services. This didn’t happen because of another nervous breakdown. I went from one forklift driver job to another job – too many to remember. Getting a job back then was so easy. I could go on and on about how many jobs I’ve had over the years I don’t think you won’t want to hear about me going from one pitfall into another so I won’t bore you by mentioning them in the story. One point I can mention is that what job I did get no matter what it was I did well, except for the evening I was working for a local newspaper as a forklift driver and one night reversed the forklift on to the claw-type of equipment and the production was then stopped as they were unable to load the paper machines. The employer told me to leave. I don’t remember getting paid for that two days and nights of driving a forklift. I enjoyed driving the forklift but the company may have even learned something here by not pushing their staff so much – going two days and nights without any sleep. I can’t even remember taking a break. After arriving home I went straight to my bed and slept for a week.
The second car accident
At the time I was living in Randwick, Sydney. I had to leave home because some days my starting time was very early and the travelling tired me out to the extent that one day it was so cold that I followed a truck all the way into Camperdown (I wasn’t running if that’s what you think, I was on my motor bike.) Anyhow that day became the point of which my life will never be the same. I was working as a bus conductor changing from one bus to another. I’d supposed to have changed over at Clovelly Beach but unfortunately because I had just started at the job I didn’t know what I was doing. The bus I was supposed to change over to was going down Clovelly Road. My driver told me there is your bus. I panicked as I didn’t want to get the sack – ran across the road and didn’t see a car coming up the road. I was hit laying on the road. When I woke up all I can think of was getting up and back to work. I was fortunate that a nurse from the Prince of Wales Hospital was waiting for a bus to take to work. She held her handkerchief on the wound on my head which was bleeding. The next thing I know the police are standing over my bed at the hospital, the police told me the other bloke looks worse. What should have happened should have been I stay overnight for observation like they wanted but being the way I am all I wanted to do was go home again. What should have happened was an ambulance take me home. This as always in my life I had the hard and painful way of doing things.
When I met my wife
One evening on returning from a broken shift working for the Public Transport Commission I was greeted by some cats that had made a home in the building in which I was renting part of a flat. These cats greeted me every time I arrived home. It must have been about two months since I’d left home and moved to Randwick close to Randwick bus depot when I met a young woman named Catherine who later became my wife. Catherine and her family were staying in a flat in the same building as me – they were living on the ground level. It was a kitchen bathroom and one big room where everyone including Oliver, Catherine’s brother, were living how.
The Manager at Randwick Bus depot told me I could learn to drive buses
I’d hounded the manager for so long he must have given up. I can remember the eighty and more hours it took me to learn the skills need to drive a bus. When I think about it it sends shivers up my spine – can you imagine me driving a double-decker bus across the Sydney Harbour Bridge within the old tram line- just enough room for a car and yet here am I driving a double decker bus! The practical exam wasn’t really a problem. You see I’d started to learn the traffic regulations from my early teens and I had memorised the road rules. Eventually, they thought my ability was good enough to drive a bus and the day began when I was given the chance of driving a bus with people on the bus. I was so excited I actually did it I was so proud. Please note the public was never in danger – my skill levels as a driver were exceptional. I had been driving trucks, forklifts up to ten tonne capacity many a time before driving passengers. You know I’m a perfectionist – my rule was if I seen the passengers papers move when I used the brakes I’d make sure it didn’t happen again, I made sure that people were able to read their papers even standing up. I loved this job and didn’t want to do anything else.
Joining the 1st 19th Infantry Battalion Reserves
Don’t ask me why I did this I may have been the bipolar again. I was walking around Randwick one day and found the above and decided to join. This was one of the dumbest things I have ever done from start to finish. It was HELL! I ended up making a real fool of myself. It was so bad I don’t want to mention anymore – I think they discharged me medically unfit. I still hear one of the other digger’s telling me one day on camp when I was so exhausted that I couldn’t carry the M60 machine gun like a baby and was forced to drag the weapon the other soldiers made me feel inferior. They later told me at camp ” You’re weak as piss, Perrin”. On my bad days this haunts me. I didn’t know it then but have a heart condition that didn’t help. How did I pass the medical, I don’t know. I most probably didn’t tell them my medical history, the doctor may have not been able to detect the sort of problems I had. Anyhow the government would have enrolled anyone who showed an interest. Admittedly I was very fit running up the stairs of the double decker buses and going around the bus collecting fares. You had to be fit but not fit enough for military service, I’m lucky there was not a war going on – I could have been posted overseas and been shot, who knows?
The time I met my wife
I became sick and tired of riding to the city on my motor bike so I asked around did anyone know of a place I could rent. It happened that Tom a fellow employer for the Public Transport Commission was renting a flat and he was moving out of the area, the flat was very small the little place very old but comfortable we had to share a bathroom and toilet. It was really great to know that after a three am start I could come home have a shower, eat something, usually take away as at this time as I couldn’t cook. I would then go to bed to sleep. One day I was leaving for work noticed a young person. I knew the person was female- she showed no interest – she didn’t even say hello – this young woman caught my eye. I was thinking does she have a boyfriend? No, she wouldn’t be interested in me. To my surprise, the young women knocked on my door that next evening to offer me a chocolate cake (how did she know my favourite food is chocolate cake?). One thing led to another. The next thing I know I’m married and my wife was about to give birth to a baby. One month later our daughter was born, a month later I’m a father. At the time it was a very bad thing to father a child with a person and not be married. The baby would have been named a bastard. The way that Mum brought me up made me feel very guilty but I had my wife and a baby to take care of. With no support from my family I was on my own. I can remember feeling at the time of my daughter’s birth very lonely and afraid. My family’s thought on this matter was you made your bed then you have to sleep in it.
What the hell is he doing to himself?
At this time the Urban Transit Authority gave me the chance to learn to drive buses. I was going fine until the day Catherine’s family returned to Switzerland. It was a happy time when they were around, I didn’t expect all these changes: the birth of our daughter, the promotion, a need to learn all the routes, working all hours. Some nights during this time I never had a good sleep with Catherine jumping out of bed banging her feet on the floor waking up everyone (even the neighbours living below us complained of the noise). I was frightened out of my beautiful sleep several times during the night. One thing led to another. The next thing I know I had to inform the manager of the depot that I was unable to continue driving buses. I eventually couldn’t cope and had a severe nervous breakdown. Instead of driving buses could I mention that I’d spent over four years gaining the experience to enable me to be employed as a bus driver. I had the responsibility to look after a wife and baby. What was I going to do I had no idea – was all new to my wife as well in fact – her job was even a harder one. She had been for twenty two years relied on her parents for instruction. One thing led to another I then decided that I was unable to cope with my work and looking after my family. So sadly I had to give up my driving job for the UTA. After going from one job to another from cleaning the buses to working as a foundry assistant in the railway section of the three or so acres of area the UTA took up for it’s use. This kind of behaviour is contributed they say to a mental illness. I now know but I didn’t know then. It was as though I was living in total darkness living by my instincts alone. I felt awful. If only they had the medications they have today then I would have been in a better position.
A new beginning
I couldn’t work and didn’t have enough money to pay the flat at Randwick. I found odd jobs driving a forklift and a job delivering telegrams for the post office. Having a motor bike licence helped me gain this job. Eventually we found a flat at Waterloo with the Housing Commission. As the stress levels became just too much I couldn’t find any work going form one job to another. Living on the fifteenth floor of the building didn’t go well with us as we don’t like heights. After about a year my wife became pregnant again – the family hated the idea. Because we had two children in 1983 we were entitled to a three bedroom house at Lalor Park.
My second chance at rehabilitation
I don’t know why I decided to get extra help again. I just needed some guidance and instruction. It was very confusing for me at this stage not knowing which direction to take. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service had a building near one of the city hospitals. I used to walk the distance from Waterloo where we lived to the hospital. I can’t remember them teaching me much – in the end I left. I spent a little time in a place at Redfern where we made things up to enable us to I suppose to improve our self-esteem. It did work for I was able to carry on. I found that the area around the flats at Waterloo the sixteen floor buildings. The area was looking very dirty around the buildings so I asked the manager of the building could I get a job cleaning up this mess. He told me that I should approach Ernie – he had a contract on the maintenance of the grounds. He employed me to take care of the gardens and to make sure the area around the buildings was clean. I did this every month or so – I’d pile all the rubbish up in a area in the car park it all took up the space of a ten ton truck. Some of the people living in the building were filthy – glass, paper, you name it was thrown off their balconies. I also watered the gardens and made sure there were no weeds in the gardens. Our life in the high rise was not what I liked being afraid of heights made it difficult. Eventually the Department of Housing offered us a place at Lalor Park. What a beautiful name it sounded like a nice area – at the time it was. As the dole was our only income it was hard to survive.
(I’d just like to go back a year or so when Centrelink were on strike and we lived at Waterloo we had little food and one day my wife cooked up some shell pasta. We were so hungry we ate it even with the weevils in the pasta (I know – Uuk!). We didn’t’ know the weevils were in the pasta until Catherine said what’s this crawling around in my bowl but what would you have done – we had no food to eat. We didn’t know we could get food from the Salvation Army -anyhow my pride wouldn’t allow me to sink this low – as long as we had food for our baby daughter that’s all that mattered.)
Back to 1983: our son George was born. As we had two children, the Department of Housing said we need a two bedroom home. We were given a home at Lalor Park One day the employment service found me a job working as a forklift driver for Fiat at Silverwater a long way from home and I had to rely on public transport. We needed the money so I had to do it. As always the work was too much for me. I had to lift these massive tractor tyres, the travel etc. became too much for me thus as usual became exhausted and had to leave the job.
The Government employment service could see that I would not be able to hold down a job because of my poor health. So they referred me to Access Industries my old employer came back to me. I started out back where I first left school – what a downer I thought to myself, how low could I get. My only concern was money for my family so what option did I have. My family and children were the only people keeping me going at this time, I had nothing except my family. I knew I had a lot to learn in life. I prayed to God every day – God please give me wisdom but what I didn’t realise was that it was up to me to put the effort into what I prayed for nothing is given to you, a person has to earn what they pray for it just won’t be given to you.
My second time working at a sheltered workshop in 1985 – on the disabilty pension gain
I had better mention my duties at Access. I was first employed as a packer. After a few weeks Access realised that I had a forklift licence and gave me the job of driving the forklift. I did this for about a year and become bored and wanted to get a job to drive buses. The employment officer at Access learnt of this and started to search for a job for me driving buses, one morning I was approached telling me that Rowe’s was looking for bus drivers so the next day we drove out in my car. That’s another story…
Getting compensation for the car accident in 1977
Whilst I was working for Access the welfare worker told me I should put in a claim for compensation for the accident I had in 1977. I approached the union solicitors. They informed me that I would have to go through several medicals before it ever came to court. To cut it short after several doctor interviews with specialists all over Sydney it came to court I was frozen with fright in the court room. All these serious people wearing these funny looking wigs – not a smile on one of them – if only I could have opened my mouth when they were asking me questions. Anyhow we didn’t win against the UTA. Some months later we again went to court – still frozen in fright the barristers told me it would be better if we settled out of court for the sum of $50,000 – not much when you consider all the legal fees doctors fees. I ended up with around $30,000. The welfare worker told me that I can’t have that sort of money or I will lose the pension. Frightened to lose my regular income I did what the welfare officer told me. I went out and bought a lot of furniture and the car – a little Mazda 1300. I invested $5,000 – silly me – some months later needed it to buy something for the house. What I should have done was buy the house from the Department of Housing – like me always listened to my eldest brother and didn’t buy the house. Withing a few months I was broke again.
Driving buses for Mr Rowe
Driving buses for Rowes (now Busways) where I’m proud to say was so exciting. Being very rusty it took me a while to get used to changing gears etc of which I couldn’t do that well because of my left arm – it never fully recovered from the accident when I was a child. After a year or so I studied very hard – Mr Rowe let me practise reversing the bendy bus in the bus yard. What I had to do was drive forward then reverse along the line keeping the articulated bus very straight – it took about two weeks of practice I then went for the driving test off course because of my perseverance and determination. I passed “first go” – all my fellow driver’s were so proud of me to gain my articulated vehicle licence. Mostly I drove a ridged bus morning and afternoon driving a old crash box from Mt Druitt to Riverstone then picking a bus load of high school children home to the out of town homes. It was bush back then – not many houses mainly farms. I did a few charters up the mountains to Hartley, Bundeena.
It felt great to be useful.
Driving an articulated bus is a lot different to driving a ridged bus it requires enormous amounts of concentration and effort so much that I suffered another nervous breakdown. I suppose it didn’t help that at the time I was riding my bike eleven klms there and back swimming about 20 laps at Blacktown Pool. As my eldest brother alway told me – “your problem is you try too hard”. Now why? Couldn’t I realise this and slow down – the bipolar I guess. When I was on a high it felt so good I could do anything – it felt fantastic. When I think about it a panel of about five doctors who interviewed me one day around 1998 seen me to see if I was still entitled to the disability pension. I was talking as though I was “Super Ralph”; telling them I had all these dreams going to TAFE – getting a diploma in IT and going to university to study computer science I would have liked that. The whole panel looked like they were stunned. I don’t remember what they said – well, I’m still on the pension.
(I had better mention that because I couldn’t earn over a certain amount because I’d loose my pension benefits, I could only work for one morning each morning driving a school bus.)
Back to Access Industries
They put me straight into going around Sydney picking up inner tubes to take back to Access for packing and sending them to China or something. Sometimes I drove the six tonne truck to pick up the used inner tubes. This was a very hard job especially during the summer where me and my labourer would be sweating like we just came out of a sauna bath. I can remember driving for twenty four hours a couple of times, not even having a break – the manager said we had to get the truck back to Sydney so they can make their deliveries. I can remember coming back from way past the black stump. I had rang the manager to ask him can we have a break and buy some lunch he said we can’t stop. Whilst we were driving along the Old Putty Road the gear box went on the truck so every time we came to a hill I had to stop the truck to put it into first gear then start over again. If we were not so tired I may have done better. It was about three o’clock in the morning before I arrived home. How I did this is beyond me. I can still see that dotted line along the roadway. Access doesn’t work like that now: the companies deliver and pick up their own goods. Access didn’t make much money from the business. Not only that, it was a filthy job and the welfare worker’s must have complained. When this job was finished I was employed driving a ute around Sydney as far as Lithgow and Newcastle making deliveries of the finished products Access produced.
My years of study
Back to 2000 going back a bit, when I left the workshop the welfare worker said to me that I would be better off doing some studying at TAFE. My son at the time was a wiz at computers and I made a bet with him that I could outdo him in computer studies. So I took up studies at Blacktown TAFE computers – a first course. I studied hard for about a year and passed all subjects. I must have done very well because the teacher mentioned that I should take on further studies, so I started Computer Certificate 2 passing this subject and went onto Certificate 3. I tried Certificate 4 but unfortunately maths was involved with binary code me and numbers don’t seem to understand each other. I wanted to learn this subject. I blame the teacher from Bass Hill Primary for hitting me with the cane when I made a mistake with the maths. I’m sure she enjoyed hitting me and made a fool of me in front of the rest of the class making me feel like the school idiot (a lot of the children at school knew about the car accident so they understood). There was this bully at school, he used to harass all the kids, he thought he was the top dog but whenever he tried to bully me I’d throw him to the ground. We were always doing this – especially when the hormones started to take their course. I hate being bullied and I don’t like to see people being bullied – I still don’t when I witness a person being harassed I let them know it’s not the thing to do. (Sorry about this – it just came to me. Two years at Blacktown TAFE to gain my Certificate 2 and 3 in Information Technology. Then I tried to get into Baulkham Hills to study Certificate 4 IT. They declined my application – they said I wouldn’t be able to do it this. It made me more determined. I then applied for the course at Blacktown TAFE. Disappointed I failed after six months study. I was fine with the hardware but the software programing and the presentation where you had to stand up in front of the class to speak about what your field study program was all about. Don’t you remember me writing about how I was unable to play my trumpet in front of anyone? The same issue here on the day of the presentation I froze I must have looked like a real dummy. The other students didn’t like me because I was older and not cool like them. I suppose it would have been different if I had done more research etc but these skills were not available to me at the time. I wanted to throw in the towel.)
I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I started a course at Baulkham Hills TAFE – a different subject altogether, Disabilities, because at the time I was working as a volunteer at Northwest Disability Services. I enjoyed this work teaching the clients all different skills from gardening to computer word-processing I was mainly working with the manager as Administration Assistant. Breakthru Personnel even helped me get a paid job there – funny I can’t remember ever getting any money I also was employed taking the clients home everyday, banking. It didn’t work out – one day there was some sort of problem and I lost my cool and walked out and went home. I suppose I thought I was superman at the same time as studying Disabilities I took on some computer studies – MYOB – also taking my wife to her cooking classes at Baulkham Hills (don’t ask me how I did this) I think it may have been that I am bipolar as I found out just recently since taking medication for bipolar I’ve been a lot slower anyhow I have no option the diabetes, insulin and tablets don’t help my sugar levels – I’m always tired especially after 3pm; that’s when I like to slow down to a steady stop.
I can’t stop thinking I’d like to do more
Most days when the grandkids go to school my daughter keeps me busy playing with her third child. Keeping the grandchildren happy is my goal. Happy kids end up happy productive adults I also help my daughter mow her lawn even though the effort plays up with the angina but I force myself to do her lawn and my own lawn which feels like it’s a park. It used to take me about 20min now it takes me a week. No matter how tired or exhausted I may be I push myself as hard as I can when I walk especially up the hills why do you think they call this area Seven Hills taking each step as it comes along not thinking about the second step just the first stem that’s all. On the days I have nothing to do I watch television, we are lucky to have Foxtel and the internet. You may be asking how can a couple afford to pay for all their bills and still go out usually three days a fortnight to have lunch and look around the shops, We don’t have any trouble with money because we have worked out a budget each day about a week before our payment. I sit down – my wife isn’t interested in looking on – anyhow I write all my expenses down on one side of the page then next to the expenses I write the amount that has to be paid I add these expenses up and get a total, then I write down how much money Centrelink gives us if the amount exceeds the amount we get I take something off the other list usually its our going out money or we cut out some of the goodies I don’t mind eating rice and tomato sauce, oats bran, we don’t eat much meat when we do want a feed of meat we just go to the RSL at Blacktown and have a feed there. And you see we don’t drink that cursed drink alcohol (is that the way you spell the word? I don’t care I don’t want to know how to spell this word that’s how much the thought of people consuming this liquid makes me sick to the stomach. Funny it’s a poison how can they sell a poison to the public?) And we don’t smoke. I used to smoke but it made me son sick in the end the doctor’s said to me this stuff will kill you it was hard to give it up I used to drink a glass of water whenever I felt like a drag. My wife and I live a very quiet life no frills no stress, stay away from stress as much as possible.
My first job in IT
After getting some help from Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service to help me find a job – after about 3 months of writing and photocopying copies of my resume – I found a Job with MRI Computer Recycling at Smithfield. I worked there as a computer refurbisher testing computers and on occasion rebuilding the computers with the spare parts they had accumulated. This went on going well until one day I was sent to a building in Parramatta on the 8th floor with other labourers to remove the old disused computers. After carrying and lifting computer for a few hours I ended up straining my back. When I first started with the company the counsellors from the CRS informed the manager that was told that I was not supposed to lift more than 5kgs no more than twenty times in one day. I did well over this and ended up on compo. needing physio. for several months I couldn’t perform my duties very well so after being told that I had diabetes and just couldn’t stop running to the toilet every few minutes and just being so exhausted I had to give up the job. I forgot to mention that before I left MRI I spent two weeks in hospital with exhaustion: they said I had something wrong with my heart something about the arteries in my heart weren’t opening enough to allow blood into my heart after seeing a heart specialist who put my on anti-angina medication. My family doctor put me on diabetic medication and also blood pressure tablets. I made a decision that I couldn’t continue like this. I then returned to Centrelink and asked them would I be able to go back on the DSP pension it sadly came to me that I had to retire. All this was just too much I couldn’t cope. My daughter had met this fellow who had a problem with alcohol. He made her pregnant, the relationship just didn’t work out this all was getting too much so I started a course of anti-depressants and anxiety medication. My brother who had just started up a book-keeping business. On occasion, he asked me to help him set up his computers and office.
My birth details
I was born at Paddington Women’s Hospital during the year of 1951. They were pretty hard times for everyone especially if you had a family and your family had little work, I can remember my Mum telling me my Dad had to go away several times a year being in the employment of a company that felled trees – a timber cutter – these fellows worked all over the state cutting down trees to make the sleepers for the railway track from Penrith to Katoomba, The money he did get like a lot of the fellows he worked with used it on their grog. The pub is still there – the Red Cow. Any wonder the pub is still around. People like my Dad kept them going to what extent to families. I remember Mum telling me that my Dad spent all the money on his grog and left no money for Mum and her kids. It’s a shame really – Mum and Dad had saved up the money to buy a house up the mountains near Warragamba Dam as at the time my father was working on the dam. The silly bugger ended up gambling and drinking their savings – this must have made my Mum very unhappy as she used to tell me all the time how disappointed she was. It’s as though we have been given the worst end of the stick just when you think you are going well something happens and we end up with nothing. This has been happening all my life going from one failure to the next, but you know I don’t mind – it’s a challenge to be in a situation where there appears to be no point of being able to solve the problem and just when you are about to give up a solution is found to move onto the next problem.
I honestly believe God is giving me these problems to enable me and the rest of the world a way in which to improve our wisdom and to become better people. We work through the situation each conflict that comes up we solve the problem and move onto the next problem. Problems will never disappear – it’s up to us to find a way to become a better person. I can thank my genetic makeup I guess for even to this day I make it my resolve to at all times persevere and in the end become a better person for it and you know I have.
It’s no good being poor
Back then it was called the sticks people used to go there for a holiday it was no holiday for us, we used to live in a shack (literally) a building you wouldn’t want to keep your dog in – there were no Woolies, Westfields etc. My eldest brother, me, and my second brother lived there with. Mum was a tough old girl she grew her own vegetables cut the wood for the fire did all the washing by hand cooked on a wood burning stove, My eldest brother had a .22 rifle and hunted rabbits – this was our only source of meat – my eldest brother worked as a labourer before school and after school it must have been very hard for him getting up at the crack of dawn doing his job milking the cows (there was no machines then to milk the cows). After this he had a four kilometre walk to school. After school he walked home, did his work at the farm, came home late and I’m not sure but I think he was about ten years old. I can remember Mum telling me she went without food so me and my brother had something to eat this affected her health she was always very ill but still kept on going. Mum used to tell me it was my fault she became ill just after I was born I understand now that it was her poor health as a child as she was born with a problem with her thyroid gland. Mum was born in Fiji (Suva). She had a good life there up until her father suffered kidney failure and the family had to return to Australia. They didn’t back then have the medical facilities they have today.
Finding work as a bus conductor and bus driver for the UTA
After spending several years going from one job to the other from a cleaner, storeman, forklift driver, labourer, I was looking for a job at the Commonwealth Employment Service one day and noticed that they needed bus drivers for the UTA. I had my heavy vehicle licence and it sounded a good idea. I knew the written exam would not be a problem but I was worried about the physical. I made the appointment to come in for the tests and medical, On the day of the medical they asked me to sit down for the written exam the physical was no problem as I was pretty fit at that time. They gave me a form to fill in asking me have I ever been injured or have had a serious illness. I very much wanted the job so don’t tell them I said so but I lied and to my surprise was given the job (maybe they couldn’t get anyone to work on the buses so they would give the job to anyone). Now I know it was a mistake to lie because being a bus conductor is not an easy job driving the buses is. I was told one of the most stressful jobs a person could take on was as a bus conductor. On several occasions I’d fallen it was such an exhausting job especially working on the double deckers – up and down those stairs going from one end of the bus to the other squeezing past the passengers. After two years I was given the chance to learn to drive the buses – the driving instructor must have had a nervous breakdown after he had finished teaching me I can still remember him screaming in my ear. To my surprise, I passed and was given the opportunity to drive buses – how did I do it it took a lot of determination and nerve, to this day I often have nightmares thinking about it (that will teach me to lie that’s why I hate to lie. Lying just left me in a more difficult situation, it took a lot of work to find my way out of the situation but in the end I did work it all out and move on).
The day God had found me
I can’t remember for how long ago, a man – his name was Mick came delivering the “Watchtower” and “Awake” came to our home every Sunday to deliver the magazines. All this came about because I found I enjoyed to read these magazines – my brain, memory were failing me, I needed something simple to read apart from comics. These magazines are very simple to understand, so one day I contacted the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Ingleburn to ask them if they could send me out some of the old copies the next thing I know a man knocks at the door to offer me these magazines, this went on for some time until one day he offered me and my wife a Bible study. At the time I thought to myself who needs this sort of education – all this stuff about the Bible just doesn’t make any sense, all these religions contradict themselves why should I waste my time on this garbage? I have been studying science for a long time and always thought to myself science has the answers. At the time Mick turned up, life in itself was a complete conundrum – what’s going on? I craved for an answer, I needed to know I wanted to know the answers but no book or internet website gave me the answers. To me it seems like endless questions looping around and around. After some weeks I began to think about why not start up a Bible study with Mick, it couldn’t do any harm. The poor fellow was nervous he must have thought I was like some of the people living around Lalor Park. But he still came back and has been coming back every Saturday. Later his wife Bev joined him and it all began. My wife was very susceptible – her Mum and Dad are I’ve known for many years are not very nice people, their influence on Catherine (this is my wife’s name, by the way) is very powerful. Catherine’s father is eighty-five this year, her mother is seventy-eight. Catherine is a grandmother and she still lets them manipulate her around. The other weekend (over Easter) they were bossing everyone around so I stood my ground and stood up for Catherine and put Ivan and his wife in their place and you know they respect me.
Life has indeed given me a hard time, the people around me have endured and suffered especially the ones I love, and yet even though I have suffered physical pain and endured mental problems which gave me severe nightmares day and night I have endured, and to this day I look back on what I have achieved and what I have now, just imagine, what would have happened if I listened to my family when they told me you can’t do that? Oh you shouldn’t be doing that etc. What would have happened if that car hadn’t hit me as a small boy I do not know. I had a good body and mind before the car accident. I had plenty of friends I was very happy, it may have been I became the lawyer that I wanted or I could have been the bulldozer driver that I also wanted to be, But would I be the same person I am today I can say honestly that I’m wise, trustworthy, reliable, honest, harmless, loving towards my family. Would I have had these attributes if I had not had a car accident? Maybe not. I honestly feel that the misfortunes of the past have turned me into a better person even though I need to take medication to keep me that way I am reasonably happy. Recently have just started to practice my trumpet, I know when I want to play my trumpet all is going well. So my fellow sufferers of Acquired Brain Injury – soldier on, never give up, it may be just a small distance, just around the corner the piece to the puzzle you need to fit your puzzle is there just waiting for you to find it
Seek and you will find.
Ralph Perrin, 21st of April 2010