It was quite exciting. I had been invited to be one of the speakers at a large function for 200 carers of the aged ethnic community in Queensland. My brief was to speak of sensuality and the elderly. Having written the book Sex in Your Seventies, I suppose I was the logical choice. But perhaps nobody realised what a hoot my speech always is!
The organisers insisted on sending a car up the mountain, sixty ks or so, to get me, the day before the big event at Rydges Convention Auditorium. A lovely, smart woman of almost fifty years was assigned to look after me. She saw to my accommodation at Rydges, settled me in my beautiful room, admired the view with me, and took me to afternoon tea. She showed me where I was to dine that night, and informed me of the method I must use to pay for any services...just book it to Room 618. Easy!
It was not long before my daughter Katy arrived, as had been arranged. She was free to have dinner with me, and would willingly meet the cost. ‘Oh no,’ said my charming minder when informed of this arrangement, ‘just put it on your account, Doreen. Live it up!’
So Katy and I presented at the very swish dining room at 6pm. An energetic, very French gentleman took us to our table. He told us his name in broken English, throwing in a few words in French the while. ‘Mum learns French,’ proffered Katy, upon which I regretted instantly any boasting I may have done regarding my proficiency in studying this language for several years.
‘Je parle Francais un petit peu,’ I lamely muttered.
‘Ah oui...’he replied. Then luck was with me. I gathered he was asking what our names were? We had learned that recently in our weekly class!
‘Je m’appelle Dorine,’ I said, to Katy’s approval. ‘Et c’est ma fille. Elle s’appelle Katy.’ And there was no stopping him! He spoke such wonderful, rapid French that I caught only a few words. No matter, the menu was before us. An appetiser was brought...we chose our entree...a palate cleanser...dinner. By then, we had noticed that outside the plate glass windows were seated my other daughter, Caroline, her husband and their little girl Holly. The latter had her face pressed to the glass, trying to get our attention. We skipped dessert and joined them in the Bistro, where they enjoyed pizzas. I showed Holly the swimming pool, the flaming torches and the myriads of lights. We repaired to my room for a cuppa’ and due admiration of the view. Time for bed!
I was up and ready the next morning, having breakfasted in the same dining room. I must take my place at my designated stall by 8am. But first I needed to see the microphone arrangements, the lectern etc. I was astonished to be introduced to the technician as ‘our main speaker.’ Surely not!
There must have been twenty or so stalls, and each one was the same, all tables resplendent in a white, starched cloth and arranged around the perimeter of the large reception hall. My books were laid out on my table. The auditorium where I was to speak was next door, seating arranged in rows; all looking splendid indeed.
My ‘minder’ was offering me drinks the while which I declined. According to the elegant flyer that I had seen, I was the fourth speaker of five before lunch. Okay. The speakers were professional people who explained their roles in caring for the aged. Very good and enlightening. Then it was my turn.
Now I know that when I am introduced as being eighty-six years old, the audience, with good reason, wonder what on earth this old ‘git’ is going to say! But I stand tall, am a bottle blonde, wear red and have my own good teeth, with which I flash a broad, winning smile. I tell them how pleased I am to be there pleased I am to be ANYWHERE today...and I get my first little response. I talk about my life, my progression from a shy little girl on a dairy farm to a university graduate in my seventies. They are interested by now. And I speak about my book Sex in Your Seventies, how I came to write it, and explain the contents.
I pack a punch! I talk about ‘quickies’, what to do with your teeth!!!, the flab, your children’s reactions when you take a lover, physical problems and the pleasures and benefits in having a sexual partner when you are elderly. They are laughing, mostly at my audacity, but also at my punch lines. I know what I am doing, and finish with style. As I am helped down from the high podium, my minder says, as she steadies me, ‘That was sensational!’
The next speaker, a charming young doctor from Melbourne, springs lightly to the stage. His first words are, ‘Doreen is such a hard act to follow!’ There is applause again, and I know I have been a success. He speaks well, and when I am chatting him to him afterwards, a woman runs down the aisle calling to me, ’Doreen, you had better get out here to your stall! There is a queue waiting to buy your books!’
My helper brought me my lunch, my drink, whatever I needed. I was busy signing books and taking money. I put on a special deal for this day whereby my customer saved fifteen dollars by purchasing all three books for $50...the Sex one, and the two about my young life in Logan Village. Most took up this offer. I sold out. There was no opportunity for me to hear the other four speakers.
Then it was time to leave. At 2.30pm, the limousine was ready to take me home. Quick farewells to the officials, other stall holders calling out their good-byes as I traversed the room, an essential toilet stop, and there was the BMW with my luggage already on board. A hug for my lovely helper, and I was waved off like royalty! By about Mt. Gravatt I was asleep.