Archive for the ‘Traveling Girl’ Category

Travelling Girl … 55

March 5, 2016

Travelling Girl – the latest in an occasional series.

Travelling Girl stood in her latest London lodgings, hands on hips, surveying its cosy comfort, its sweet views of the gnarled trees in the front yard, the cars parked cheek by jowl on the road, a brisk ten minutes from the mainline train station right into the heart of the metropolis. Was it home? Well it was sanctuary at the end of another day at the interface between civilization and brutality, where she toiled relentlessly with faint glimmers of hope. Hope that was all too often overwhelmed by the idiotic edicts from government mandarins who really hadn’t the first fucking idea about what she – and armies of other like-minded endurance machines – had to deal with each day.

New flat9

Not for the first time in her life, as she looked at her belongings, did Travelling Girl wonder about her life. A small but not entirely sad or hopeless sigh escaped her lips, which at least were not pursed in anger or annoyance. No, that seemed to have passed. Although when she looked in the mirror there were worryingly deep furrows above the bridge of her nose. She didn’t like them at all. She had, she noted with some relief, arrived at a place approaching contentment. Was that simply age, she wondered, or had some sort of karmic calm found her at last?

From time to time she wondered about paths and choices and how she really came to be here, just exactly here; not really where she had expected, nor, in truth, where she wanted to be. But who was? How many of her friends and colleagues were where they wanted to be? Lunch time conversations around the ‘ladies table’ focused on frothy things like children, houses, holidays, the latest BBC drama; but always returned to the dire nature of their shared profession, the decline of it, and the encroaching darkness of their professional futures. Too many days too many of them speculated about what else they could do, what other jobs could they turn their hands to?

In idle moments she thought about home. Home was a difficult word – operating on multiple levels at once. Home had been Hobart and Darwin all at once. She had cried when she’d left her house in Darwin, house of her children, swimming pool and palm trees, fruit bats and green tree frogs. But always she’d held her home in Hobart as home as well, or was it her dad’s place on the Huon; was that her natural Tasmanian home? Home was now this bright and airy flat, but so was Tasmania. Home was constantly shifting –London, Tasmania (including that terrible flat in Queenstown – never quite a home at all), the NT, even a cottage in France. But they were physical entities; bricks and mortar, weatherboard and corrugated iron: chunks of land with trees and flowers, vegetables and animals. Home was more than that. She knew that. She also knew her speculations were far from original.

deviot view

Ideas about home had changed, hadn’t they? Once they were simple, when the kids were young and the houses were homes full of noise and mess, love and tantrums. Home was easy, it was about love, about being together with the ones you loved best in the whole world. But travelling had unhooked home, unmade a natural physical base for the growing kinder to return to.

Home was here and now. This flat full of her things, put together and arranged exactly as she wanted. Home was an old cottage in France, where an important and special man made gardens and fixed plumbing and tiled all sorts of things. Home was with him. Home was when her children were with, when they all gathered for celebrations of one colour or another. But true home, real home was far away on the other side of the world, on riverbanks in white weatherboard houses, where memories and love lived and waited patiently for them to return.

Home was there. In her heart, she knew that. She had travelled across the world, had a family, seen and done a lot of things, with still more to do, but she needed to be back there – on a riverbank in a tiny obscure state on the edge of the world. She needed to stop moving, to face some facts, and find her way home, to the place, the physical place where she felt at ease, where it was warm and comfortable and she could sit on her verandah, drinking wine, nibbling Twisties, eating BBQ beef sausages and corn fritters, watching the river run; sitting with her family, whom she loved and missed more than anything in the world, until the end of time, until she was no more.

Travelling Girl knew it was time to make plans to get home – sooner rather than later. (Images from Private collection)

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The Mid-winter Darkness

November 29, 2014

I do not like the darkness so early. I do not like 4pm being akin to 4am. I am not a creature that thrives in endless night. I resent this shortness of daylight, this creeping cold, this devlish dark. It’s obvious why stories about creatures of the night have been spawned in the northern hemisphere – no wonder Vampires stalk the imagination as the dark descends. I am more aware of the Solstice than ever I have been in my life. I am counting down to Mid-winter and looking forward to the painfully slow rise out of the gloom, getting January and February behind us, and then sliding towards Summer.

orps snow1

Summer = Australia. Summer = home. Winter = misery (well at the moment it does – sometimes it means fires and red wine and good books). I am miserable and bleak as we head to Christmas. I am not full of festive cheer. I resent my birthday more than ever (happy birthday to me) as it’s spent in gloomy despair (perhaps an exaggeration, really) at the departure of another not so wonderful year. No, I need to be back where the seasons and the world makes sense.

I think I have some sort of mutated Jet-lag. Despite being in London for seven years now I still struggle with the seasonal difference. I can well sympathise with the early Australian settlers (colonizers, invaders – which ever word you prefer) who found the seasons and climate too strange and longer for home for this ‘civilised and sane’ part of the world. My Jet-lag means I still think it should be the end of the school year, we should be winding down to an easy end of year, getting ready for Christmas and the long summer holidays, spreading over half of December into January and stopping short around Australia Day. I should be thinking about beaches and BBQ’s, Bundy and Coke, iced champagne, swimming in my bay. Not talking about snow for Christmas, and looking for new coats or a Christmas jumper. I am endlessly confused about last year as the school year starts in September and ends in July and so I never know which actual year I’m in. The Oz school year is immensely sensible, really it is!

blurry snow

Yes, the long Northern Summer evenings do compensate, the light til ten is quite lovely – even if it’s not warm enough to make the most of it. I think now, that one of the reasons I love the Northen Territory so much was that the day’s length never changed – sun-up and sun-down was the same time every day of the year. It made sense, there was no disturbance to one’s internal time clocks and moods. It was always warm – well hot, actually, and sometimes wet but the day was invariably 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. Living near the equator made life wonderfully stable and almost predictable.

deviot view

We are still too many days away from the Winter Solstice, still endlessly falling into darkness. But I’ll mark the day, happy in the knowledge that the darkness will remain but lessen each day and soon it will be bright again, the days will lengthen and suddenly I will feel fine again, human and cheered by the daylight. I guess it tells me I’m not a vampire! (Images courtesy Private Collection)

A Homesick Ozzie-girl

February 9, 2013

I have been living away from my homeland for five years now. According to Dylan Moran I should count myself lucky as it’s full of things waiting to kill us and it is after all a jail, especially the bit I originally come from. And at the moment, all bits of it are suffering the wrath of Gaia and her evil climate-tantrums.

dylan moran

But, dear friends there are some things I am really starting to miss, things that you just can’t get here, or are just not the same. So, indulge me a while.

 

Food – oh boy, the list could go on forever but…

Thin beef barbeque sausages – can’t find anything remotely close here – everything is pork and short and fat – not suitable for bread and sauce at all.

Weiner schnitzel – pork or beef, supermarket or pub. What’s the issue, why doesn’t this exist here – Europe’s only a stone throw away?? Anyway, ‘twas my favourite counter meal and I miss them!

Lamingtons – I wasn’t a huge fan at home but when you can’t find some when you want them you miss them.

Gaiety biscuits – wafer chocolate treats, twice as yummy as Tim Tams but not as well known or popular but well missed. Pink panther wafers are an OK substitute but not the same, sadly. Very nice with strong coffee and champagne.

gaiety bix

 

Summer – I really miss Australian summers – a surprise, I know.

And it’s not winter here that sets me off: no, it’s the pathetic attempt at summer that happens here. Seriously it is about 3 days of proper heat, hardly time to get outside, let alone set up the BBQ or catch a spot of sun. So, it’s the beach, the sky, the heat, the smells; being outside most of the day – that’s what I miss.

I miss the Sydney-Hobart yacht race – watching it on Boxing Day, usually with my dad, but with a glass of bubbles and cold left overs from the big day before.

Consequentially I miss Christmas in Summer – it’s cheerful and positive, not stuck inside in small rooms, claustrophobically stuffing food in your face all day.

sydney-hobart

 

Australian politics – truly!!

I can’t abide the tossers here. Ours seem real, more like us. I love Julia, even though she’s probably a rubbish PM. And where else in the world would you find someone like Tony Abbot still in politics. Oh, and the fact that we voted out the second longest serving PM, out of office and out of his seat. That was one of those wonderfully blissful moments. Here, politicians make you reach for the sick bag, not laugh out loud like our lot tend to.

Thus I miss Kerry O’Brien – the best interviewer in the world. I miss his subtle sabre questions, his ginger top and sly smile and blue eyes. I could come home just for Kezza alone.

kerry o'b

 

My house on the river. It’s too long since I sat on the verandah watching the river. I miss my kitchen, my en-suite with spa, the wood fired heater in winter; the space so we can do our own thing without falling over each other all the time. I miss the boat-shed, the roses, the lawn – the colours, the brightness and freshness of it all – the light. The space – yes I miss the space inside and outside and the river, watching the river, being on the river.

home

 

Driving fast every day. Indeed I drove to and from work at speed nearly every day for nearly every year of my Oz working life. Now I only drive in France. The traffic and bizarre road behaviour in and around London would do my head in – especially a certain intersection at Borough Market, which I still cannot work out, despite passing through it every working day these past five years.

cars

 

And finally – Glad Wrap. I find this unbelievable actually, but I have come to miss this humble kitchen necessity more than all else. I cannot abide the Tesco cling film that I now have to buy – there are no choices in my supermarket. Here it is a weak, flimsy thing, pulling apart in awkward and annoying ways, seeming to collapse in your hand whenever you use it, unwilling to do what it must. Glad Wrap is strong, robust, co-operative and I would sell my soul for it!!!

glad wrap

Of course, when I do go home – eventually, whenever, someday – I will miss things from here. But that’s a blog for then, isn’t it?? (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

 

Traveling Girl 2

February 5, 2012

(Link to Traveling Girl 1 – published October 3, 2010)

How many places in the world were there? Surely there was a place where she could be happy? This God forsaken blight on the planet, lost in time and humanity, on the west coast of nowhere was not the place for her. How many towns had gravel instead of grass on their footy fields? How many towns had a pub on every corner? How many towns were as full of people who didn’t really want to be here as this place?

It had not been a good six months. Foolish liaisons yet again – would she never learn? Friendships that were based on the slippery surface of proximity. A job that was neither wonderful nor terrible but not fulfilling either. Not much chance for literature and writing here: Friday nights in the pub, Saturdays at the Laundromat, Sundays preparing and marking. And so many grey days full of rain and clouds. Oh, what a gothic place to be, as miserable as any Bronte novel – weather within as bad as weather without.

And naturally with her spirits so blighted she’d terribly  been sick – bronchitis moving into pneumonia it felt – so she went home for two weeks to be in a familiar place, if not a familiar bed, and contemplated her future. Two years, the conventional wisdom went, before she could return to her sweet riverside hometown. But would she survive that long? All parts of life were failing and she had lost her faith in the future. She had not written a thing and she was neither an inspiring teacher nor inspired by the profession.

In August a telegram came. A position in the farthest place on the continental mass to the north of her insular island home: a chance to change her destiny. She demurred only a second, only a moment to check with a friend about life up there: all good, it’s all great, her friend confirmed, go, you must go. She accepted the job, made arrangements and delivered her resignation with joy to her less than supportive principal. Well, he’d never liked her much, nor had taken the trouble to disguise it, so how could she not delight in telling him (metaphorically at least) to stuff his poxy job.

Her father, of course, could not help himself and after the initial acceptance rang back to lambast her decision and impress upon her the foolishness of giving up a safe career in the Tasmanian Teaching Service. She laughed, at the horrific image conjured by that thought and by her father’s naïve belief that he could change her mind. It was simple, Nhulunbuy could not be worse than Queenstown. And if it was she would wear it.

She listened to the Eurogliders and felt a renewal of hope, a burst of sunshine in her deep mid-winter.

I’m tired of living in the sand

 I’m searching for a better land

Heaven must be there

Well it’s just got to be there

I’ve never -never seen Eden

I don’t want to live in this place

I want to find a better place

I’m searching for a better place (Heaven, 1984)

It was because she had already unhooked from home that this move was so easy to make. Had she still been in Hobart, had her mother not so thoughtlessly died, she would never have gone. But the thread was broken – there was nothing substantial or real to keep her here. All she’d made was a mess, so why remain?

She packed her worldly goods, shipped off a few boxes and her car, loaded her cats into their travel box and hitched a lift with her brother home to catch the plane to take her to the rest of her life.

She did not look back with longing or regret as they wound out of the hills from that depressed, weatherboarded, close-minded mining town. Nor did she hesitate for a moment as she walked to the plane three days later.

She took a window seat on the right of the plane, so she could watch her country unfurl below her as she travelled inexorably from one life to the next. Nervous, but not unnerved. She did not know it, but maybe she sensed it: if the move to Queenstown had set her free, this was the move to begin her life, remake it as she wanted it to be.

(Images from Google-images.) Please note: All opinions here are entirely personal and subjective and in no way objectively represent any place mentioned in this blog.

Traveling Girl 1

October 3, 2010

On that day in February 1984 as she inched down her steep drive, away from the orange weather-board house that had been her home for the best part of her Uni days, she was not aware of – or even considering – the fact that she would never call this place home again. She would (without the faintest glimmer sparking in her synapses) from this very moment forward, always be moving on. She would never live in this city again.

Would she have set off so brightly, car packed with her small life’s worth of detritus – books, tapes, cats and clothes, to her new job and government provided shared accommodation four hours drive away on the brutally beautiful West Coast, had she known how her life would unfold? It’s hard to tell what we would do if we knew the future, all of it.

This clear blue February morning she was leaving her youth behind, the easy life of a student, the unhappiness of her family and too many messy affairs, and taking up her first job – teaching English and Social Science to the youth of Queenstown.

It was a desperate place – embroiled in environmental stoushes these last few years; its mining industry in decline; its 14 pubs a reminder of the good old days; its gravel football field a testimony to the toughness of the townsfolk. Its high school small and inhabited by neophytes like herself. It was the second worst place to be sent as a high school teacher. But she wanted work – she was finally qualified – and she needed to go. Saying no to the education department meant no job, unless you’d lined up something in the private sector and she hadn’t.

Two years. She had to do at least two years and then she could come back – well apply for a more civilised posting. Back here, she’d thought and resume her life in a place she was quite comfortable in after all. She was inordinately fond of the river.

Three years and the car would be paid off and she could go overseas – Europe and the UK, spend a year there, working in the schools, making some money; travel and see all those things she’d read about for years. Neuschwanstein Castle, Paris, Athens, London – Hampton Court and the Tower. Then, if she hadn’t met someone on her travels (as many did) she would come home, think about settling down, acquiring a professional husband, she guessed, buying a house and having a few children. A modest, normal life. Nothing too grand, nothing too exceptional. Oh, and write a few books and get published somewhere in there as well.

If she had a plan, that was it. Good in broad outline but no details and only scant attention to time-lines. She wasn’t a particularly driven person, not ambitious, not hugely smart – well an Arts degree (and Dip Ed) were not for the intellectually gifted were they? Not Medicine, not like some of her mates – too much maths and science there.  She was smart enough – she’d won a scholarship to uni and despite too many failures along the way (personal issues that even now she preferred not to think about) she’d had good teaching pracs, and would be all right as a teacher. Her mum had always considered it a good fall back profession. Her mum was thinking children – she was thinking writing – but that was in the indetermined future.

She drove on that February day with a calm sense of the future unfolding before her as the road did. She never thought of the alternatives, that she could have joined the public service, obtained a cadetship at the local paper. The alternatives that would have kept here, stopped her taking the first step that unhooked her from all that she knew, all that was familiar and comfortable to her.

Home would forever be a difficult word, used to mean so many things simultaneously. Belonging would be another word that she struggled to define and own. She played Split Enz loudly as she drove quickly, eager to get there, curious about her house-mates, nervous of the reality of classes all to herself – how would it all be? She examined her feelings – there was no sense of foreboding, no feeling that disaster awaited, only a sense that life was hers to take and mould and make of it what she wanted.