ELIZABETH GALBRAITH WOODYATT
AFTER SEEING OUT A CENTURY, THIS RAZORSHARP CHATTERBOX IS STILL ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH HER MEMOIRS
Iwas born in the little town of Dundee in Natal, South Africa during the Great War. My father was a lieutenant with the South African forces and, when the war finished, he became a magistrate. He was transferred all over Natal so we never stayed in one town for more than four or five years.
I had an older sister who bullied me terribly but it made me stronger so I think maybe that’s why I made it to 100. We had an amazing childhood. We ran free. My mother had no idea what we were doing half the time.
We went to school at a boys’ boarding school as day students. There were five girls who did that and it was the most wonderful education. A Welshman and his wife ran the school and he used to explain things with wonderful sketches on the board. When I left school, my father was working in Johannesburg. I wanted to be a portrait painter but my father said we couldn’t afford the lessons so I became a shorthand-typist.
I met my husband when my aunt arranged a picnic with a fellow she’d met. He turned out to know my father and he brought with him a young man who was staying with his family. That was my husband.
I was only about 15 then but I was more or less fixed up for life. We married when I was 18 on the same day King George became king after Edward abdicated in 1936. We survived the Depression. We didn’t have much but our treat was to go to the pictures.
It took me three years to fall pregnant and when war broke out, I had a new baby. My husband didn’t sign up straight away but he did when our daughter was nine months old. I went to stay with my parents who were back in Natal by then. My husband was sent to Madagascar where they kept an eye on the Vichy French and then North Africa. He had quite a good war. He didn’t go to Europe.
When he returned, we bought a house in the suburbs of Johannesburg and he worked in real estate. It was just about 10 years between my first and second daughters then my third came two years later. In that time, we left the city for a small town on the Natal coast. I did everything for the girls. I slaved for them. I made them beautiful dresses; I got involved in their activities. When they married and had their own children, my husband and I moved back from the Cape to help our youngest daughter with her five children, so I did grandmother duties as well.
Our daughters all eventually left South Africa. They ended up in Australia and, when things were stirring up in South Africa, we decided to join them. It took 18 months to fix it all up. By the time we came, I was 72 and my husband was 81. It was just another move.
We moved around a bit before we bought a little cottage at Laidley in the Lockyer Valley. We had chooks and a vegie garden. It suited us but we started getting old. We moved to a retirement village at Coombabah. I took up line dancing there at 80. I was very good at it and even started giving lessons. I did it until I was 93. I’d have loved to have kept doing it except my balance started to go.
My husband died at 97 and I stayed on at the retirement village for a while until my daughter found an aged care place in Tallebudgera Valley. She was convinced I was going to drop dead but I’ve been here for eight years. Never in my life did I dream I’d make it to 100. I’m a bag of bones now but I don’t have any arthritis. I’ve always been a chatterbox and I still love to read. I’m writing my memoirs on my computer. I started a few years ago and I’m only about halfway so I’m going to have to hustle. The early days are easy but as you get older, everything spreads out like a huge umbrella.