Barry: She's mad. And she gets away with murder.
Jeanne: I am mad. I love being mad. When I go up to the shop to get some milk or something, people stop me and say, "Hello Jeanne, how are you?" And I'll say, "You're looking fantastic," when they really look shocking. [Laughs]
Barry: I don't know how she gets away with it. Jeanne is oblivious to her madness. She made a dress out of rubber gloves and she went up the street to get something. This old lady stopped her and said, "What's that dress made of, condoms?" Jeanne said, "Daarling, if they were condoms I'd be stripped naked by now." It's true she has this tremendous warmth. When she goes up to the shops she's gone for hours because she talks to everyone. And she's the kindest person in the world. Generous to a fault. She's just given you one of my 15th-century statues. And it's not hers to give. But we never have really bad fights do we? Is it true you picked Barry up at a railway station?
Jeanne: Yes that's right, sort of. I was on my way to a party with friends and picked Barry up at North Sydney station.
Barry: That was the first time I saw Jeanne. Was it instant attraction?
Barry: Yes. We talked all night at the party together.
Jeanne: It really was instant, wasn't it? It was lovely. What year was that?
Barry: It was the early '60s. We had a 10-year relationship together before we decided to get married. We didn't rush into it.
Jeanne: Yes, we were together a long time. Lots of cocktail parties in between and having tons of people who were wild and mad. It sounds a very Bohemian life!
Jeanne: Yes, we love all that.
Barry: They were the days, lots of drinking and good times. We all got together on Saturday nights outside the Rex Hotel [in Sydney's Kings Cross] at 10 o'clock, just hanging around and waiting to go to some party or other. The rest of the week we had these fairly ordinary jobs. Jeanne worked at the attorney-general's office as a bookkeeper and I was an interior designer. Is that how you brought your daughter Katie up, to have a strong belief in herself?
Jeanne: I think so.
Barry: It was very hard for Katie, growing up, she used to get abused at school. It must have been hell with kids screaming at her, "Hello daaaaarling." We had problems with her when she was an adolescent. She was a bit wild.
Jeanne: You can understand that. It's not every day your mum's Jeanne Little, is it?
Jeanne: That's true! Perfectly true. Exactly.
Barry: She's a very sensible girl, quite level-headed.
Jeanne: We sent Katie to a really good school and I used to go and pick her up after being on The Mike Walsh Show in the '70s and I sometimes had hot pants on and a matching purple wig and make-up galore, and I'd sort of be there at the school and all these other mothers would go, "Oh, hello". Some of the mums were real snobs. But the kids at the convent next door used to hang out the window and loved it.
Barry: I think the other kids wished their mother was as mad and fun as Jeanne. And now you're grandparents to Katie's kids...
Jeanne: Oh, it's nice, isn't it Barry?
Barry: Yes, we like it.
Jeanne: They like to drop them in. They say they're coming over so we run out and get chocolate and ice-cream and everything. And their mother says, "Don't give them chocolate or ice-cream because it makes them frenetic." But as soon as the door slams we run and get the chocolate and the ice-cream and jelly. It's fabulous, and by the time the parents come back they've wrecked the house and they're on to the next place. They are lovely.
Barry: He's a dear little boy. Tom is three and Charlotte's one. Do you still read tea leaves Jeanne?
Jeanne: Yes, I do. My mother used to read them, too. One day my mother was waiting for this woman's son from Brighton-Le-Sands to bring his mother's tea cup to her. When he brought it, she said, "See this person with a hatchet on a woman's head?" and by the time her son came home she'd been killed. So isn't that terrible. What happens when you see death in a tea cup?
Barry: She's seen a few deaths but she doesn't tell anyone. We saw a boot at the top of the cup last week and that means we're moving. And that's exactly what happened. Yes, you're at an amazing turning point. After all these years you're moving house...
Jeanne: Yes, we are. It really is an end of an era.
Barry: It's enormous. We're getting rid of everything.
Jeanne: We are happy about it. We've been here a long time and there are too many stairs. I fell down them with high heels on. I was shooting down thinking, "Will it be my neck, will it be my knees? Here I go." Another time Barry was home and I could here this crashing sound and I thought , "Oohwah, there's an elephant in the house. It was Barry crashing headfirst into a wall."
Barry: I was lucky I didn't knock myself out. We've both had falls in the house. For more of this interview, see this week's 60th anniversary issue of Woman's Day (on sale August 25).