She was a remarkable character: odd in lots of ways. We met her on holiday, not just casually; no, she spent two weeks with us as we travelled by bus to central Australia. Every day we said, “Hallo Rosie. How are you today?” Every evening we had dinner together at our motel.
Rosie told us she’d been sterilised when she was 24; surprisingly young we thought. She’d also had a brain operation and had had to learn to speak again. Had this influenced the person she’d become?
Rosie was a good name. She always wore something that colour, even her sunglasses were a shade of pink. We knew from our lunch together on the first day that she was not quite normal. She talked non-stop about all the trips she’d done all over the world. It seemed as if she must always be away from home. And then she told us that her husband liked her to travel. It didn’t take long for us to understand why! Halfway through the meal she excused herself and went to the ladies’ room. When she returned she explained that some of her lunch had got trapped in her teeth and since they were false she needed to take them out! We wondered why she needed to tell us this so early on our journey together.
As the days passed we came to realise what a strange adult Rosie was. As a mature woman in her 60s she behaved like a child. She always had to be first off the bus even if she was sitting at the back and since coach tours operate rotational seats she was seldom at the front. She was halfway down the aisle before the bus stopped. Like a child she loved ice creams, frequently stopping to buy one; her favourite words seemed to be “Oh, lovely”.
She was a passionate photographer, well taking lots of pictures anyway. When we stopped at a scenic spot Rosie’s camera went into overdrive. Not only did she take pictures at ten metre intervals as we walked, she bailed us up demanding that we take her picture against the backdrop. As the trip progressed everyone did their best to avoid being near her.
At dinner one evening Rosie arrived last. She decided not to sit at the only place left. She demanded that our driver, Ron, move. He was gracious enough to do so.
Rosie had agreed to share a room with another passenger. Of course, they’d never met before. The much older woman told us how eccentric Rosie was: she wore a wig which she carefully removed; she then stripped off and walked around in the nude and later slept that way.
My lasting memory of Rosie is of the visit we made to the grave of Albert Namatjira. For most of us a respectful moment was required. Not for Rosie: she wanted not one but two photos of the headstone and then requested that someone take a picture of her standing beside it.
Rosie was strange, but she was memorable.