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.
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.
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)