Roving Rubies and Red Hatters growing old disgracefully
THERE'S no talk of a republic when it comes to the Roving Rubies Red Hatters - they are more than happy with their Queen Lilimarlene, aka Marlene Klintworth.
Marlene formed the branch 13 years ago, when she was new to the Coast, and has seen it grow from 17 members to more than 100, members ranging in age from 48-95 years.
"It's harder to make friends when you are older and life changes after your retire, you move or you lose your partner," Marlene said.
"A new lass join today; just moved to the Central Coast to be near her son after becoming a widow, and she doesn't know anyone up here - so we have adopted her too."
Lorraine Browne (Lady La La), a member of more than four years, said "it's one of the best decisions I've ever made".
"Our queen is one in a million and all the ladies are wonderful," Lorraine said.
"If they hear someone's not well, everyone's got their hands up asking what 'can we do for you'.
"I had worked for over 30 years and, when I retired, I was suddenly at a loose end ..."
She's not any more, with something on every week, if she wants to take part, and always someone happy to go along to any venture or event, from a concert or the movies to a simple coffee.
Marlene said "the girls" had spruced themselves up in fringed dresses, pearls and feather boas for last month's special 13th birthday celebrations in Sydney and "there was a trail of red and purple feathers from Central Station to the Casino Wharf".
"Everyone greeted us with a smile, and I don't know if it's the hats, but the men are very complimentary," Lorraine laughed.
They boarded the Rhythm Boat for a tour of Sydney Harbour, inviting members from six other branches to join the fun.
And that's what it's all about, fun and friendship, and "growing old disgracefully", with Marlene more than ready to lead anyone astray.
"We've all got our aches and pains; we've got people going through cancer ... and you've got to get away from it and enjoy yourself, have a talk and a laugh," Marlene said.
With ladies joining "for a reason or a season", Marlene said she never closed the books, knowing there were always more people out there who were in need of a friend - even under-50s, known by the group as Pinkies.
"The first front door is always the hardest," she said.
"Once you're out of that, it's easy.
There's no pressure, just come when you can, and we have more fun when you do."