“Monica from Human Relations here; can you help me with a problem? I have a young girl student of mathematics here who really wants and needs a vacation job. She is outside our normal criteria, but you might like to see for yourself”.
At 18, Karen presented well and was keen to take up a challenge. She would do any type of work and spent the eight weeks fighting our mainframe computer, boating on the Calliope River in Gladstone with the water scientist (I remember wishing I could have gone too and showed her the extensive air monitoring effort I had supervised!) and having my two computer co-workers end their friendship over their competition for Karen’s heart.
I remember being fascinated by her writing with a fountain pen; it seemed to add depth to the equations. At the end of her employment, my boss was unimpressed when Karen and the team came back late from the pub; she then proceeded to say goodbye to me with an innocent peck on my cheek.
Two years later, she rang to ask for a reference working as a load forecaster at SEQEB. This I very willingly did but put the phone down thinking that I should have suggested coffee. She got the job and a career which would later lead to world-beating electricity risk management.
Forward now to 1989 with me recovering from divorce and I had a call from a Karen who said she knew me and wanted to find out if I could help her with her MSc and a difficult supervisor. Before she came to my office, I checked with my Head of Department and the propriety of taking on a PhD student from another Department.
I returned to my office to find a very demure, young woman with alluring eyes, very unusual clothing, large earrings and the plainest brown leather shoes! I had not realised that I was meeting this Karen but sat her down for an interview. All I could think of was that there was no way I would take her on as a student. I had been separated for over 9 months and had been socialising for half that time.
We parted with me saying I could and would help her polish her Masters. A couple of days later, I invited her to a Friday lunch at a very nice on-river restaurant. She arrived after a torrid session with her supervisor, running an hour late and with her worries dampening her appetite.
Later in the afternoon, and in a race for me to pick up my children Ryan and Julia from Lady Gowrie Child Care Centre, I could not find my car (wrong building of course). My children’s unexpected introduction to Karen was unusual since I was so perplexed. But later, we met up with Karen’s son Liam and all was fine. The die was set but there were many adventures ahead!