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Hilary Ford

20130328, a great day! Hilary Ford has sent along a tremendous biography and great photographs, too.

Hilary Ford

I like the drama of the stories about my early childhood, so I'll indulge myself with a couple of those, but otherwise I'll try not to resemble too much that garrulous old person who always appeared in Dragnet episodes, but to follow Joe Friday's admonition: "Just the fact, Ma'am."

I was the third daughter born to a conservative New Zealander mother, teacher of Latin and French, and an adventuresome father, son of missionaries, who was raised in boarding schools in China. When I was six weeks old, I was packed in a clothes basket and taken steerage class from Victoria to New Zealand - a voyage of 6 weeks, during which I was fed practically non-stop to keep me quiet.

After an unsuccessful attempt at farming, my father became a disc jockey in Nelson. When I was 5, he left to support British efforts in The War of the Running Dogs in what was then called Malaya. My mother moved us back to Victoria, where she bought our house on Hampshire Road for $17,000 (!)

She left my two older sisters boarding at St Margaret's while she took me, now 6 years old, to Malaya, to try to shore up her marriage. In Ipoh, my parents put me in a day school run by nuns, where I was the only English speaker and a source of great amusement to the other students. At morning recess on the first day, I ran away. Luckily for me, I was found wandering along the road by Englishman who knew my father, and not by communist guerrillas (bandits). My parents then took me in an armed convoy to a boarding school in the Cameron Highlands. After that, travel between school and home was in the back of an armoured truck with some very handsome and fun solders _.

My mother's attempt to rescue the marriage wasn't immediately successful. She brought me back to Victoria and enrolled me as a boarder at Queen Margaret's in Duncan, until my father eventually returned when I was 9. I then moved back home to Victoria and was enrolled at St Margaret's until Grade 7.

Apart from the hilarious and often upsetting antics of Mrs Henning in grade 7, my memories of Oak Bay Junior High are mainly of having great chats with the cleaning lady in the girls' washroom after being thrown out of class. I must have been a really annoying student! One fond memory is Brian Unwin, our grade 9 class president, yelling "Order!" during a class meeting...and Pat Smith yelling back "Ham and eggs!"

High school - well, you were there.

I took my BA at UVIC - alternately with two years of teaching, first in Dawson Creek, and later at Central Junior High. After a brief marriage, I moved first to Saturna Island, where I participated as staff at the Free School, and then to Ontario where I worked for a year as a parole officer. I returned to Victoria to help look after my father who was dying of cancer.

Some months I later set off on my world travels - across the Pacific via Hawaii, Samoa and Fiji to New Zealand and Australia, where I tried various occupations - dishwasher, housekeeper, bistro cook, book shop manager, prawn trawler cook, barmaid. Then I flew from Darwin to Bali, and so travelled overland to England. After that, I returned to take my Professional Teaching Certificate at UBC.

Big crayfish and me - prawn trawler, Gulf of Carpentaria, 1972

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When I graduated, luck was with me again, because although teaching jobs were scarce in BC, Queensland was recruiting. I got a free trip to Australia, via Fiji and New Zealand, and a job teaching in the high school on Thursday Island - in the far north of Queensland. My plan was to work for a couple of years and then relocate to Greece. My first Christmas back in Oz was on holiday in Darwin during Cyclone Tracey - now THAT was exciting! I met my (Samoan/Torres Straits Islander/Indonesian) husband on T.I. and we set off in a VW van to travel around Australia, working at various jobs along the way. We eventually returned to Brisbane for a couple of years and then moved up to the Torres Straits, where I was teaching again and my husband was diving for crayfish (lobster).

Island dancing, 1974.

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When I became pregnant, we were living on Prince of Wales Island in a beach house without any facilities, or even any glass in the windows. We moved back down to Brisbane and stayed there for 5 years, producing two daughters, Sally and Shannon. When Shan turned 2, we bought an old steel yacht that we sailed from Sydney back up to the Straits, bought a little freezer boat, and went crayfishing for a few years. I wrote articles for Cruising Helmsman, and taught my daughters correspondence school courses with the help of the School of the Air from Cairns.

Thinking that living ashore would be better for the girls, we took the job of looking after a pearling station on Albany Island, where I had a decent vegetable garden and a pet piglet - wild - that the dogs had brought in. When my marriage foundered, I took the girls to Atherton and ended up teaching again for a few years. My specialties were learning difficulties, literacy and ESL. In addition to teaching in at Malanda High, I also taught literacy tutoring at Lotus Glen Prison. We later moved to Brisbane, where I was the director of the learning support centre at Albany Creek High.

After high school, both my daughters moved to Canada. In 2005, I became very ill with mysterious disease that had me in intensive care three times over a period of 2 months. I remember lying in a hospital bed, ringed by a team of specialists who were all tut-tutting and arguing over a diagnosis. In their wisdom, they finally settled on Kawasaki's Vasculitis - an illness that most commonly attacks Asian infants.

My older daughter had come from Canada to Australia to be with me - we all thought I was going to die. She helped me pack up the house, which was bought by my neighbour's boyfriend - and I moved back to Vancouver Island to be close to the girls who were both living in Victoria at the time.

Vietnam Highlands, 2009.

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I got a job teaching at Shawnigan Lake and bought a little rancher where I lived until 2009 when I set off on some more travels, this time mainly in SE Asia and Mexico. In 2011, in partnership with my older daughter and her partner, I bought a property just north of Winlaw, in the Kootenays. With the help of a local builder and many friends and relatives, the kids built me a lovely cottage where I am now very comfortably ensconced. My plan is to spend the spring, summer and autumn here in paradise and to travel to sunnier climes in the winter.

A very stern, cigarette smoking Santa, Rob, (Sal's partner), me, 2011.

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O yes - I had a hip replacement a year ago - nasty at the time but good now.

S Beach. Koh Kudd, Thailand, 2012.

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That's it so far.

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With Shannon and Sally, 2008.

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