10 May 1948 – 14 September 1998
Roger & Connie
35 Burcott Road, Purley, CR8 4AD Surrey.
Dear Pat and Rob,
Do please forgive me for not writing to you both separately, but I feel you are both sharing this sad time together and the day-to-day coping with Hazel not physically with you.
I have thought of you often and of course, of Hazel, how original she was — curious, embracing of life, endless energy and enthusiasm and her unique sense of humour. I admired her so much, she seemed so complete and I know she valued every minute of every day — that struck me when we first met 26 years ago.
I have been so very upset about her death, I could actually cope much better with my mother’s — and older people — although when someone said to me that my mother had had a really good life (she died at 85 — and, yes indeed, she had a very varied and interesting life) I was unreasonably cross, because my mother had pointed out that she might look 85 but the years had gone so quickly and she still felt young inside. And at 85 she really was not ready to go, she was extremely angry and upset with everyone, and totally in denial right to the end.
Wondering how you have all been coping — it’s interesting that the drudgery tasks — washing, ironing, shopping for food, can sometimes help you get through the day — particularly when there are days that seem impossible to sludge through. How are Joshua and Zoë? — from what Hazel said and what you mentioned, Rob, about involving them in the service for Hazel — it will help them to come to terms with her not being there, but they must miss her sorely, she was such a huge character (I know she would laugh at that and say I was being personal about her height — but vanity was not really her suit. Except for a short phase in Canberra when at the age of 27 she suddenly decided she wanted to have her teeth straightened. And she wore braces for 18 months and was very thrilled at the results. It was a little bizarre and very typical, and very endearing. Hazel would come to a pool party (we did those sort of things then), but Hazel felt that even if it was a pleasant waste of time, would pop along, mix very sociably, and then you would find her half way through the afternoon reading a book on bridge — when she was going through her bridge phase.
I first met Hazel when we were both working in the Senate when Hazel had left ICI (I think that was who she had a job with that originally brought her to Canberra) by the Committee Secretariat in the Senate to work on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse Committee. She had just begun her law studies. We had a few games of tennis, and got on very well. She was in the throes of buying a house — she bought one in Sherbrooke Street, Ainslie, and told me why she had made her major career change from science to law. She said she had so much admiration for people whose careers were in scientific research — but all these people were so committed and involved in their careers she felt a bit a fraud, and that she was far more interested in the variables of the human race. She thrived on it, she had such a great sense of purpose. She invited me to move in with her when she bought Sherbrooke Street to help with the rent, and many mornings when I would come home in the early hours, there would be an empty bowl of cereal outside her door — she studied so hard for her degree and was never a loss for something to interest her. One of her greatest satisfactions was getting the larder filled. She would go out a do a big shop, fresh vegetables and the market, good wholesome food and then we would sit down to a good meal. She went through a phase of muesli — a huge bowl which she ate every morning with great satisfaction. She was so appreciative of the simplest things.
She bought a Mini — dark green and white with a number of hidden problems. Hazel did have someone look it over for her, and felt it was such a bargain, that nothing was too much of a problem really, because she would book herseff into car maintenance classes — which she promptly did.
Any number of friends could drive up the drive at Sherbrooke Avenue to the sight of a little Mini Minor in the driveway, parked next to the kitchen window and a long lanky pair of legs, clad in jeans, sticking out underneath. She bought a number of old manuals on Mini maintenance and worried away at a problem until it was solved. It gave her a great sense of fun and achievement, even as she disappeared around a corner in a great cloud of smoke — oil changes were very frequent.
We would go to the pictures/Canberra Theatre on a regular basis. We talked for hours after seeing A Day in the Life of A. Solyzenitchlan — you know who I mean, I can’t spell his name. Reg Livermore was a great favourite and we went to see Betty Blockbuster Follies years before he came to England. In fact when he came over here, she wrote to tell me and Rog and I went to see him, loved the show, but unfortunately it flopped after 6 weeks. His show didn’t travel well, unfortunately.
We had a great circle of friends. Beth, Wendy, Sybille, Rae, Anne (who is now, I believe Clerk of the Senate), another Rae, Maggie — I mention all girls (as we were then) because [boyslmen] drifted in and out of our circle but we were a consistent group of women — not necessarily with feminist overtones, but appreciative of each other and our aims, and so, supportive. Hazel was wonderfully supportive to me when I went through an extremely confusing and difficult time. She was the truest friend and I miss her dreadfully. Even though we lived on opposite sides of the world — when we did meet it was just wonderful to be together.
She was very amusing when I eventually ended up with Roger and I was extremely curious about you, Rob, as you were such a rock in her life. Well, what’s he like, I said Well, you know, a man, she said. Dark, very penetrating eyes. Then she paused: what I love about Rob, she said, he never ever bores me. He is always interested, and interesting to be with. She told me how you had first met, and how she was so attracted to your eyes — this is really girls’ talk, Rob, but you probably know all this anyway. She said you were gentle, kind and fabulous with Joshua — which we saw when we finally met up in 1990 ... and then she was so thrilled to be pregnant with Zoë ... she was content and fulfilled.
Do you remember, Pat, when we all met up for the first time and Hazel armed with an A-Z bounded ahead of us both, panting to keep up as we went to Bermondsy and on to meet Sue Wolk — she walked us off our feet and we had such a great time. And it was so good to see her when she was here. I have a photo of us all together on our settee — you, Josh, Zoë, Hazel, Rog, Jeremy, Ashley, and moi. And the kids were a riot — they made a camp in the lounge and had a ball. Hazel was frantic to get some food down the kids and we had a load of baby food for Zoë and fish fingers for Josh — it’s funny how you remember the little things too.
Rob and Pat, I know I mentioned that I have a lovely photo of Hazel that was taken last year at Mum’s funeral, but I have not been able to find it. Once the Christmas cards are packed away this year I will search in earnest. I put them somewhere safe, but found them too painful to look at, and the somewhere safe has so far eluded me, but I haven’t forgotten.
I expect you are all going to the Mountains — the Majestic — as Hazel and I came up with as a joke, but she so loved you home there too, all the walks and times you have had there. Or maybe you are going to Melbourne.
I think of you both and the children and hope to meet up again.
Connie, Rog, Jeremy, & Ashley
Connie was a friend of Hazel’s.