Sunday, 28 January 2018

Australian Memories


“We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love
...and then we return home.”
- Australian Aboriginal Proverb

“Don’t worry about the world ending today.
It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”
- Charles Schulz

Today’s blog post features a heavy dollop of Australian nostalgia. Bill and I are about to leave on a six-week trip to Australia, a follow-up to our trip last April, both compliments of generous Air Canada seat sales. (Thank you, Air Canada!) We’re scheduled to spend our first week in Sydney, to be joined by our dear Belleville friends Lindi and Denis who are also swanning around Australia. We then fly to Hobart, Tasmania, for three weeks, then a few days in Melbourne, followed by a leisurely drive to Albury/Wodonga and Canberra before returning to Sydney and the flight home.

Australia and I go waaay back – 47 years! In 1971, I was in the mood for adventure, so I left my teaching job in Picton, Ontario, to join a university buddy in Sydney, where I taught for almost a year at Ku-Ring-Gai High School, a public school in North Turramurra at the edge of the beautiful Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park along Sydney’s North Shore. What a fabulous opportunity for a 24-year-old ready to see the world!

Australia became part of my DNA very quickly, and it has stayed that way ever since. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have returned for extended wanderings. If life had zigged rather than zagged, I would have happily become an Australian citizen and stayed permanently. As it is, I consider myself part-Australian, as proven by the tattoo on my right arm!

In 1971, I was adopted by the Jones family – Lance, Gwenda, Gregory, Michaela, Andrew, and Diane – of West Epping, in Sydney’s sprawling western suburbs. Lance was an executive with Woolworths, a large chain of Australian grocery stores (no connection with Woolworths in North America). Gwenda was “just a housewife” (her words). I met them through a Rotary Club connection from my teaching days in Picton. They were kind, generous people who made me feel at home. They even cooked a Canadian Christmas turkey dinner so I wouldn’t feel homesick during my first Christmas away from home. Alas, it was 100° F that day, with no air conditioning, so I would have been happy with beachside prawns on the baabee! Their hearts were in the right place, however, and that’s all that mattered. I’m sorry that I lost touch with them. All correspondence ceased when I told them I was gay in the 1980s.

At the end of my Australian teaching stint in 1972, I got on board an Italian liner and sailed across the Indian Ocean to Africa, the Canary Islands, and Europe before flying back to Canada. I had proven that the world was, in fact, round!

It has been a privilege travelling to Australia with both my husbands. Spencer and I flew there in 2007 and 2010, and I returned in 2013 to scatter some of his ashes in our favourite places. Bill and I went last April and now we’re returning. Bill’s daughter, Kate, is married to a wonderful Australian bloke, so travelling there now includes visiting his – now my – extended family. I intend to keep returning as long as the money holds out!

My experiences in Australia helped shape me and mature me. I will be forever grateful to that country for being so welcoming and nurturing. I hold my Australian friends close to my heart and count my blessings each time I see them again.

Thank you, Australia.

The photos: they come from my first ‘real’ camera, a Canon AE-1 using Kodak Ektachrome 35mm slide film. I loved that camera and wish that I hadn’t given it away 20 years ago. I recently went through a Kodak Carousel tray (remember them?) of my ancient Australian slides and pulled out a few to digitize. Enjoy!


My intention is to post photos of our trip on this blog during our time in Australia. I hope you enjoy them too!

1971: 10 Tryon Street, Chatswood
The house I shared with six other people.
2013: 10 Tryon Street, Chatswood, 42 years later.
The neighbourhood has been gentrified.
1972: Staff sailing party on Sydney Harbour
1971: The Jones Family
Back row, l-r: Lance, Gwenda, Michaela, Gregory
Front row: Diane, me
1978: Backyard of the Jones house
Michaela, Gregory, the family Samoyed, me
1978: Lemon Tree in the Jones' Backyard
1971: Australian Winter - Ice in the Blue Mountains 
West of Sydney
1972: The Three Sisters, Katoomba, Blue Mountains
1972: Blue Mountains Overhang
My Mother hated this photo: "You could have fallen!"
1978: Travelling in Queensland with Lance and his 
Ford Falcon Estate Wagon
1978: Me with Wallabies in northern New South Wales
1978: Me with Oxen, southeastern Queensland
1972: Me with Black Swans in Perth, Western Australia
1972: Lloyd-Triestino Liner, the SS Guglielmo Marconi, 
docking at Circular Quay, Sydney.
Note the incomplete - and highly controversial - 
Sydney Opera House in the background.
1978: Vancouver Airport, waiting to board a QANTAS 747.
The waiting area was filled with people reading Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds.
Factoid: QANTAS is an acronym for the
Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service.

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