Chapter Four...Tom's Anguish

 

As fortune would have it the German lady from number five caught Sheila on her own, when she called to see her.

"Mrs Jowett I just thought that you would like to know that we are moving out at the end of the month. I understand that the owners in Brisbane plan to give it a facelift then put it on the market'.

Sheila was excited. 'You're absolutely sure about that?'

Absolutely ...see, here is the letter to vacate'.

So it proved to be. Sheila had been a little worried about even approaching Tom about it for fear of a protracted argument. Later that evening when Tom seemed at his sanguine best Sheila, turned to him.

'Tom  what would you say to the idea of buying a bigger home?

'What has brought this on Sheila', he said quite un-menacingly.

'The house up the road is going on the market after it has been cleaned up'.

'Which one is that'?'

'On this side of the road, on the curve in the road next to the two story place'.

Tom waved his finger toward Sheila, 'I know the house.' he paused a moment. 'You thinking of buying it?

'Well this house is too small, as you have said and it is a nice place inside'.

'You have seen inside it then, when?'

'About six months ago Tom. I heard about it that night we were last at the Club together, so I found out about it, but at that time it was not actually on the market'.

'Why didn't you tell me then?'

'There didn't seem much point at the time'. Sheila knew that by the time it did come on the market, that if she had mentioned it at the time, then Tom if he was enthusiastic then, might have lost it six months later.

'Have you got the owners phone number?', he asked casually.'

Tom was interested and within two days he had contacted the owners and arranged to buy it from them. He told them that he would meet them near their asking price, provided they discounted the property in lieu of foregoing the expense of redecorating.  Whilst Tom was always predisposed toward hard bargaining he was always fair. And so it was in 1986, that Tom and Sheila Jowett moved to 5 Frangipani Street.

Occasionally Tom and Bruce, not yet on a first name basis would meet, whilst walking the dogs. They would often pass the time of day and since in those days Tom's house was not fenced and now that he owned a mastiff, Bruce or more particularly his small terriers were always wary of going too close. It was on a day when Tom and his wife were in the garden, with the mastiff Toro, spread-eagled on the lawn, that Bruce unexpectedly spotted them. Toro, big but probably fairly harmless made a dash for the two Maltese Terriers. For a moment all hell broke loose until Tom grabbed the big fella and shut him in the garage. Sheila concerned came over and spoke with the now two frightened terriers. When Tom came back he apologised profusely and they introduced each other.  One thing led to another and when they began to broach the subject of politics, Sheila walked off.  Ironically enough it began with a remark about immigration and when Bruce mentioned that 'Enoch Powell had the right idea', Tom agreed most heartily.

'Trouble is they pilloried the poor bastard. He  proved them all wrong now that the horse has bolted'.

'You're right of course ;  we'll have to have a yarn one day and set the world straight'.

'I'd like that'.

With that Bruce took his leave, waved to Sheila and set out for home.

In the early months of 1988, the influx of tourists became not only visibly noticeable, but also began to impact on the local property markets in both Sydney and the Gold Coast. New Zealanders and the Japanese were particularly high profile. At the time Bruce a painter and paperhanger by trade was working on a substantial home on the Isle of Capri, that had been extensively structurally renovated. Wally, a Dutchman who has lived in New Zealand for thirty odd years had known Bruce for most of them. He was standing looking down from his vantage point, watching two men standing outside a car pointing to various houses around the circular road, that formed a loop.

'Come and take a look at this', Wally called out.

What Bruce saw was a typically dressed Gold Coaster and a gentleman in a bespoke tailored suit.

'He's Japanese, isn't he? I reckon he is buying up half the street'.

'You reckon that its a land agent with a client', Wally said.

'Yep and I reckon you'll see a lot more before long. You know Wally when I first came to the Coast, they told me at Ray White's that everything on the Gold Coast was for sale. You wait before long they'll own half the Coast.

In the days to come Bruce Whiteside would be a name heard across most of Australia, yet it was not this instant that raised his ire, to foreigners buying Australian property, but one that in itself was quite innocuous. Bruce who married an Australian, took umbrage to a letter that appeared in the Courier-Mail around March of that year, 1988. The writer was lamenting the shame that the Japanese had been given the green light by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to purchase the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. What did not escape Whiteside's attention was the fact that Japanese were buying up an iconic symbol that was Australian to the core; no  ... not koalas as the writer to the C-M had indicated but very reverence of the name Lone Pine!

Bruce Whiteside read the letter to his Australian wife over dinner and was scathing about the priorities of the writer . 'That's typically Australian' he bemoaned. They worry about a bloody animal whilst conveniently forgetting that the real symbolic significance is the fact that men died at Lone Pine, defending the very people who are today only too bloody willing to sell off our heritage to the very people who would have taken this country at the point of a bayonet. How soon they forget. It was as if somebody had personally attacked Whiteside, for from that moment on he began to take the Australians to task. He saw their apathy as being criminal, not for themselves but to the future generations and for those who had given of life and limb, to retain the life-style that was now being taken for granted'.

'We are a pack of gutless apathetic crawlers, who have no pride or sense of shame. We are money-hungry in the extreme. We are numb to what is happening'. The letter went on accusing real estate agents of reaping a harvest on the blood of fallen heroes. It accused Australians of hypocritically observing a moments silence at 6 pm each night at RSL Clubs, whilst forgetting the real purpose of what these men died for. It ended by quoting General McArthur, 'I shall return'.

Few if any would have written what Whiteside wrote that day. Initially one or two wrote back to the Bulletin newspaper  reinforcing his  acerbic letter. Day after day the letters began coming in, until the pages were full of voice, both for and against. Those who tried to decry Whiteside's comments seized on the oldest ploy in the critics repertoire, and branded him a racist.

 Indeed the  most astute political commentator in the country at the time fell into the same trap. Yana Wendt was to be taken off air for a fortnight, stressed out by the backlash, that came her way for trying to cut Whiteside down.  Whiteside far from being intimidated fuelled the fires more when he set out to write 'Australia does not belong to the apathetic, Australia does not belong to the weak, Australia belongs to those who take it.' He rose at 1am in the morning to jot that down and such was the fervency of his thought he continued to write being lost in the early hours and through the rest of the night. At 8.30am the speech, for it had become that was completed. Exhausted he read it to his wife. The rest as they say was history. 

Fifteen hundred people packed the Miami Great Hall to hear Whiteside deliver what he had written. Not only were all the national media there, but journalists from Japan, France and Britain attended.

After the meeting he became media property along with all the rudeness and crassness, that goes with presenting the news however distorted, at any cost. He was attacked by big business, politicians, real estate agents and especially developers. Never once did he back-off and every time he was attacked he raised the anti. Parliamentarians wanted him censured, a move made by Barry Cohen in the old Parliament Building.  Hawke advised against it, never really taking Whiteside seriously. Yet trade missions were being dispatched to Japan in an endeavour to blunt the rising public resentment at Japanese ownership. So hot did it get on the Gold Coast that Daikyo who once owned five hotels, pulled out and went north.

One man who became very interested in Bruce's campaign was Tom Jowett. Jowett was a self educated man and his admiration for Whiteside extended to frequent meetings in his home discussing not only the issue, but how to handle the media. Tom had spent a little time with a television crew owned by the government. Sheila also became interested and in fact both, as a result of their association decided to take out Australian Citizenship after 38 years in the country.

Number five  Frangipani Street butted on to Bruce's property along the rear boundary.  At the rear of the Tom's house was an entertaining area, that frequently rang to laughter, chatter  and partying.  Most week-ends this occurred and there was nothing unusual about that.  Neither Bruce or his wife Iris were ever part of this scene and as a consequence the voices were faceless. Apart from their interest in politics Tom and Bruce were no more than ships passing in the night. Both respected each others privacy and their lives certainly did not impinge upon  each others.

In March of 1996 Bruce went down to Adelaide to paint his step-sons house. It was at the time of the Federal Election and because it meant going half way across Adelaide to furnish a absentee vote, after having made it to a polling booth, he did not vote. As a New Zealander it had always been a moral duty, but not compulsory to vote and as this was the first and only time he did not vote he thought that a government who forced its citizens to vote and then placed upon them situations that prevented them smacked at both an insecure state and one that was more within keeping in the Soviet Union. At the end of the day the Keating government had taken a king hit, with three candidates throwing up a vote that indicated a trend emerging. Bob Katter in North Queensland, Graeme Campbell in Kalgoorlie and an unknown Pauline Hanson in the old seat of the present Governor, Bill Hayden. All had pushed the immigration envelope, that cut no ice with the parliamentarians but fulfilled the wishes of the people.

In the six months leading up to the infamous Hanson speech, nothing of any note had happened. She was for all intents and purposes just another seat-warmer. In the meantime a shock was in store for Bruce. Speaking to his next door neighbour he queried her on a remark she passed about Tom's wife Sheila.

'You speak as if Sheila is dead'.

'Didn't you know, Sheila died in the Gold Coast Hospital six weeks ago. Apparently she died as a result according to Tom of hospital negligence'.

Within an hour Bruce called to see Tom.  It seemed almost beyond belief that a neighbour could die next door and the friend not know, but Sheila it transpired had died the day Bruce and his wife Iris had left for Adelaide. They had been gone a month and it was this that Bruce now found himself explaining to Tom.

It had been sometime before Christmas that Tom then 83, had driven Sheila  then 67 to the local shopping centre at Burleigh West.  Tom waited in the car while his wife did the shopping, which was their normal way of doing things. Time dragged on this day and after mentally making notes of why she may be taking so long eventually walked over to the centre to find her.  While he was making his way in the building a couple of paramedics rushed by heading it appeared for Woolworth's..  He headed for there and asked at the information counter if they had seen his wife.  The receptionist had no idea as to who his wife was and said that she would put a call out in a few moments after the commotion had settled down.

'Apparently some-one passed out in the isle and she has been taken to the sick-bay ..we won't be long sir'.

Tom waited for five minutes and then asked for the call to be sent out.. The raucous voice came over the hub-bub of the crowd. ' Would Mrs Sheila Jowett please come to the service desk'.  Shortly a senior manager came to the desk and spoke to the girl on reception. 'Jane the lady who passed out is apparently Mrs Jowett.  Don't put the call out again.

'Oh, Sir  that gentleman asked me if I had seen her'.

'Did he give you his name?'

'No', Jane replied.

She watched as her boss approached the old man , spoke with him and  led him away.

Tom had reasons to worry about what had happened. The following day arrangements were made with a specialist, through their own general practitioner. When the appointment was kept the news was not good. The cause of Sheila's collapse in the supermarket was caused by the development of a brain tumour.  Sheila then undertook a prolonged course of radiology and chemo therapy.  What is alleged to have happened next by Tom, was negligence . His version was that the chemo had made her very weak and she was having this treatment in hospital. This particular incident that ultimately lead to her death occurred on the first Tuesday in November, which as all Australians know 'stops a nation'. or so the saying goes. The on duty nurses were out of the ward watching the Cup being run, when Sheila wanted urgently to relieve herself. She had been warned not to even attempt to get out of bed, but to ring for help. This she did and when no response was forthcoming after several urgent tries, she endeavoured to  let herself down onto the floor. What happened next was that she fell like a brick, breaking her pelvis and damaging her hip. The situation that faced the surgeons was terrible. They could not operate to attend to the internal damaged she had suffered for the reason that she was not physically strong enough to undertake the necessary operation. 

The plan was to build her up to a point where the chances of pulling through were without risk, as any operation can be.  Bruce Whiteside was painting his roof on his home and was quite appalled when he saw Sheila out in the rear of her home on a brief break from the hospital. 'She was bald, quite thin and looked gaunt.' Later he spoke with Tom commenting on her condition and offered to come in and see her, but Tom either through genuine concern for her feelings or embarrassment did not want anyone to see her 'like that'.

On the morning of September 11th 1995, Tom and Sheila Jowett attended the office of Robbins, Watson, Solicitors of Burleigh on Queensland's Gold Coast. They were attended by an Andrew Smyth. Their home was at that time in joint ownership a 50/50 title agreement. Tom himself was not well a fact noted at the time by solicitor Smyth. His concern worried him because Sheila was in the process of undergoing chemo therapy and he  believed that his days were numbered. This resulted in him relaying to the solicitor his need to cover  his wife in the event of his death.  Smyth pointed out as they had no children, the property would automatically become hers anyway and that all that was needed at this stage was the filling in of a form to that effect. This was accepted.

A month later Tom and Sheila were back in the solicitors office. This time arrangements were made to change the ownership of the home to Sheila. In the event of any unforseen developments the estate was left to the surviving partner. Andrew Smyth was to become executor and in the attendance note the emphasis was placed on the deletion of spouse, by being underlined. Also was the recorded note that Tom Jowett wanted to leave me (sic) Andrew Smyth a gold watch.  Reference was made to a taped note, but the solicitor said 'no need to'.

Pressure was being placed on Andrew Smyth as the Jowett's had indicated that they were considering going overseas. This destination in all probability would have been to the United Kingdom, the country of birth for both of them. On October 26th, 1995 the Will was signed. No provision had been made for dispersion of the estate in the event of both dying simultaneously.

The following January Sheila who was biding time and building up her resistance for the operation that was needed to repair the damage caused by her fall out of bed, that broke her pelvis and hip, was recalled into hospital. Tom was greatly bothered,  because his wife was now undertaking a serious operation. Sheila realised that now that the house was in her name alone, that Tom would be faced with the disposal of assets if anything happened to her. In hospital Sheila and Tom nutted out the draft of a new Will on 28th Feb 1996. Sheila was recovering from the removal of another lymph septicaemia. Andrew Smyth noted Tom's comment that this had been as a result of 'injecting without proper cleaning'. The attendance sheet noted that Sheila's brain tumours had cleared up and further tests failed to find any sign of lymphoma.

The indications were that Sheila had turned the corner as far as her cancer was concerned but she still faced the operation for bone damage. This was four months after she fell out of the hospital bed.

The draft of the new Will was drawn up and the details were sketchy.  The beneficiaries made for interesting analysis. There was :

 

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Fran Ballard
 

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Betty? with a phone contact number
 

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ATS to be executor (*ATS being Andrew Thomas Smyth)
 

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ATS to get antique gold watch
 

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ATS to supervise and ensure all paid
 

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ATS to be joint executor with Sheila
 

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Blue Nurse - Carol (e) ?
 

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Robert to receive all tools
 

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Sue to get car (1989 Celica Toyota)
 

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ATS to be shown where cash and jewellery is in home
 

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The Marshall's to take care of dog.
 

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Sheila's bank balance $1402.47

There was other minor details but the loose ends could be tidied up in the next few days. A phone call to Robbins, Watson's office confirmed an appointment for the actioning of Sheila's Will on the 5th of March. Tom insisted that the matter was urgent and that the solicitor goes to his home in Frangipani Street at 4.00pm. The following instructions were taken:

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Carol, Betty, Marshall's, Fran, George and Trish; all 1/6th, of the residual of estate detailed separately
 

With these instructions Tom goes to the hospital, only to find that Sheila wants further adjustments.  March 18th 1996, is Tom's 82nd birthday. He instructs Andrew Smyth to 'hold the will' for the moment, saying that Sheila doesn't agree. Tom insists that beneficiaries will look after Sheila when he dies and if they do not agree, to have them struck off the Will . With this Tom undertakes to advise Sheila of this and informs the solicitor Andrew Smyth that he will get back.

 

A newly married Sheila. In those days a highly competent and responsible forewoman in a dressmaking company.

On March 29th, Bruce and Iris Whiteside, who at this time had no real association with the Jowett's set out for Adelaide at 6.00am. Whilst being operated on that day for the broken bones in her pelvis and hip Sheila Jowett died on the operating table. The operation went horribly wrong. Sheila Jowett passed away at the age of 68, leaving a bewildered and now lonely Tom at 85, to struggle on alone.

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