Having not opted to ay for WiFi during the flight, this post will be published sometime later today. For now, it’s less than two hours until we are due to land, and it am increasingly excited, and even rather emotional about meeting my old friend on her home turf.
This journey began, though I didn’t know it then, twenty years ago when Vicki and I worked alongside each other in overlapping but quite different rôles. We got on, which was just as well as the management wasa shambles, and those of us further down the food chain were taking the flak. At least I had others doing the same work as I was, Vicki was on her own, and she became the scapegoat for many failed and failing management decisions.
The list of tasks for which she was suddenly deemed solely responsible became as long as the London telephone directory. It took its toll. Her husband, initially sympathetic, started to glaze ver when she talked about what was going on at work. She’d come round to mine, and while I made meals, she told Cat her woes. As I’d been telling him mine too, he was well on the way to completing the hours needed to be a counsellor, though I don’t know who his supervisor would have been.
Things got worse and eventually we both quit. I baled first. Vicki headed back to Melbourne telling me I must visit, and me saying yes of course I would.
Time passed. I had increasing responsibility for Mother, and long haul was not on the cards. Cat died. Vicki drank a toast to his memory and mourned him almost as much as I did. Her marriage came to an end. I can’t recall whether it was Mother or her husband who died first, but her parents and sibling also needed support, so our hands were pretty full.
She made a passing visit to London two summers ago, having been at a conference in Eastern Europe. We caught up, found we still got on, and again she renewed her invitation. About this time last year, knowing that Aunt had at best only a few months to live I decided it was time. That sounds very decisive. It wasn’t. Aunt’s imminent death made me again consider my own mortality. It’s all very well saying I’ll go to Australia one day, but when will that one day come. So I suppose you could say Aunt helped me; Aunt and her modest wish list of things to do and places to see before she became to weak or unwell to leave her home. Also the knowledge that Mother always intended to visit the family in Canada but realised one day she had left it too late.
November 2016 seemed a good time, and I started to tell people of my plan. I had not at this stage told Vicki. It occurred to me that might be a good idea. I emailed her. Silence. Oh no, I thought, maybe she’s only been asking me because she doesn’t think I’d come. As it turned out she’d been away and not looked at her emails. So I booked the flights, talked vaguely about what I’d like to do, and she made suggestions – Tasmania!? – Yes! I said. Meanwhile the family tom toms started to spread the word, three cousins to see, one of whom I have never ever met, and Octavia’s relations and friends in Melobourne and Sydney, some of whom I have met in London, also made welcoming noises. I had thought of Airbnb, but it seems that I shall mostly be accommodated by these kind people, which is nothing short of marvellous.
There’s always a risk when you stay with friends that being in much closer proximity over a period of time that you start to find each other irritating. We have agreed to say if we are uncomfortable, if it’s not working, and I hope that means we allow each other space. And not just each other. Vicki’s partner who I have never met will be there too, and the dog. We shall see.
According to the screen in front of me, we have less than an hour and a half until we land. The journey has not been as arduous as I had feared, though that may be tempting fate and tomorrow. I get antsy on a one hour flight to Belfast, so the prospect of twelve hours followed by seven was something I was dreading. I’ll try to read my book for a while but anticipation and excitement is welling up like an unstoppable fountain, and concentration may not be good. I have already watched a Danish film based on true stories of abuse in orphanages in that country during the 1960s which was hard viewing but good, and a film I am pretty certain I shouldn’t’t have seen anywhere else.
There has just been an announcement about the card we have to fill in for Australian immigration, a timely reminder perhaps that it’s not over until I am through passport control and customs, but I am oh so nearly there!