The KLM flight landed just after 6am at Kingsford Smith Airport, twenty years ago, today. The morning was very much like the one today, around 17oC and a huge blue sky.
We had spent the previous month in a heightened state of anxiety; a mixture of panic and excitement. We had packed up our home, shipped it to Australia, furnished the apartment we were letting out, and farewelled our dear friends and family.
The final scenes in the UK are etched on our memories. Friends sat waiting with us until the last moment when we needed to go through passport control and security at Birmingham International Airport. The usual chatter felt somehow constrained by what was about to happen.
This prelude culminated in a long walk of goodbye, amongst tears flowing freely, while carrying more hand luggage than a pack horse would carry in its lifetime.
The relief of taking our seats on the plane to Amsterdam, where we were to pick up an international connection to the Far East, was overwhelming.
Time has dimmed the memory of the stopover in Singapore and the flight to Sydney.
Why is it significant to mark this milestone? It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our choice to make the journey over the rainbow, to become immigrants and aliens in a foreign land. The fact that we have lived over 54% of our adult lives, to date, in Australia is an indication of commitment, at least.
We plan to review our decision over dinner, this evening.
Excerpt from the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, lyrics by Yip Harburg:
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I have heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Way above the chimney tops that’s where you’ll find me
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow why then oh why can’t I?
Man made and natural points.
It will have been a week, on Christmas Day, since tooth #16 was extracted. This first molar in the upper right side had caused me excruciating pain during the previous week. X-rays did not help in explaining the symptoms. A bit of bashing around with a seemingly metal implement, followed by a “does that hurt?”, identified the offending, not so pearly white. The cause could be due to the nerve dying or a fracture. Root canal surgery would fix the former, while a crown would sort out the latter. The monitoring period, when I planned to work out which organ I would need to harvest and sell to pay for the procedure was short lived.
On the following day, a sliver of dentine on the inside of the tooth was behaving like a bottom hinged window when brushed gently with the tip of my tongue. Another visit to the dentist quickly cleared up the mystery. It had fractured down the middle, below the gum. With not unpleasant memories of wisdom teeth removal, while asleep, over thirty years ago, I happily agreed to a tooth pulling. To take place there and then with local anaesthetic, although “it will not be an easy one to get out”. Four injections later, what seemed like an eternity of rocking the ivory back and forth and a great deal effort, it was out, despite exclamations of “your bone is dense”. Isn’t that a good thing?, I silently asked myself.
When the anaesthetic began to wear off, I took ibuprofen with codeine for the pain. A sleepless night and limited relief resulted in the dentist prescribing panadeine forte. Migraine like headaches and earache followed for the next two days. Another visit to the dentist revealed I had a dry socket, the pain was due to the jawbone being exposed. After an uncomfortable rinsing with saltwater, a rather pleasant clove tasting concoction with analgesic properties was packed into the wound. Yesterday was my first pain killer free day. This morning the cavity is throbbing. I call upon the Universe to allow me the enjoyment of being able to partake in the upcoming feasting, even with using my left hand teeth to chew.
I don’t know why I find water so attractive, perhaps it is due to me being born in the Chinese year of the Water Rabbit. Alternatively, it might be due to growing up in the middle of the country without easy access to anything other than canals filled with rubbish and the odd boating lake.
In rather than on
Admittedly, I have limited experience of being on water, this is for good reason. I have a few memories of ferry trips and the like that were okay. Taking me out through the Heads of Sydney Harbour, to be bobbed around in a craft like a cork, in the swell of the Pacific results in dizziness, nausea and profuse sweating. The best I can manage is the taming and riding of inflatable devices, such as lylos, pink flamingoes and noodles; in the safety of a pool.
My fascination with swimming pools started early in life. The primary school I attended would run double decker buses, once a week, to the local public baths in Harborne. Opened in 1923, to a child, this drafty old building, with an interior of cathedral like proportions was awe inspiring. Patrons were greeted with an acrid chlorine smell that pervaded throughout. An arched entrance followed by a gloomy ticket hall opened onto the shallow end of the pool area.
The delighted shrilled shouts and screams of small voices and the high pitched sound from pea-whistles echoed around the honey coloured brick interior. Dark wooden changing cubicles were arranged regimentally, along either side of the length of the pool; girls on the left, boys to the right. Cubicles consisted of a bench and hooks, where you would leave your clothes. As children, we had to share a cubicle.
Either no one explained swimming pool safety before my first visit or I wasn’t listening. After exiting my cubicle, dressed in saggy red trunks, I ran towards the large arched window at the far end of the pool. Shafts of sunlight from skylights set high up, in the apex of the roof, danced on the surface of the water. Jumping high into the golden Autumn air, I plunged into the chilly water. The sound of the water swooshed past my ears. My sinuses responded in pain to the rapid intake of liquid. The silky water caressed my skin, turning into a peaceful embrace as I sank rapidly to the bottom, in the deep end.
I had not thought through the implications of my impulsive behaviour, being unable to swim. Only the recollection of that first exhilarating jump into the unknown remains etched into my memory. How I reached safety and the rest of the lesson has faded into my dim memories of the late 1960s/early 1970s. After this episode, I was only allowed to swim widths in the shallow end. I’m sure I was a disappointment to my mother who had won awards for her swimming prowess.
Even now I am not a strong swimmer, I get by with a hybrid form of breast stroke with my head out of the water. I also enjoy floating on my back and treading water.
Whenever we holiday in our favourite Far North Queensland destination, Port Douglas we spend hours in the pool. The calming effect it has on us has inspired our annual ritual of putting up a temporary pool at home. It is here every Summer that I get back in touch with my inner mer.
Being the product of a broken home and seeing so many failed relationships, led me to believe that marriage wasn’t for me. In 1993, my thirtieth year I fell in love with my future husband. Within two weeks of our first passionate encounter, we were living together.
At that time in the U.K. I had the perception that being gay was something that brought shame to the person and their family. I grew up trying to conceal the part of myself that was largely unacceptable to society. I became expert in hiding in plain sight. Doing everything to avoid the spotlight. The opposite was true in circumstances where I felt comfortable in being myself, to the point of outrageousness. Perhaps this is an insight into what might have been if I had explored this side of my personality.
A couple of trips to Sydney showed us a completely different culture. When interacting with staff in shops and banks we were engaged in conversations together, not individually. People generally appeared to be more friendly and accepting of differences. Having said that I remember conversations about boycotting products from the island state of Tasmania because sex between two consenting adult men was still illegal. This was decriminalised in 1997.
Combine blue skies, sunshine, and the Harbour with a lifestyle that offered freedom; this was an opportunity that should not be missed! With the the intention of giving it a go for two years, in 1998, we upped sticks to literally move to the other side of the World. By facing challenges together, we learned to depend on each other.
We have embraced Australia as our home for almost twenty years. Over that time the World has changed, dramatically, including same-sex marriage becoming a reality for one country after another.
In our twentieth year together, legislation came into effect that allowed same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland. On Saturday morning over breakfast in July we chatted about reports in the news that same-sex British citizens would soon be able to marry at the British Consulate. This coincided with a planned visit by my partner’s family, in October. We both commented at the same time time that this would be an ideal time to celebrate our love and the support of our family and friends. We then realised that we had proposed to each other.
Much planning and organising occurred from that moment up until Friday 24 October. My husband has kindly agreed that I can share the following post from his private Facebook page. It describes how we became part of the above picture by Zest Events International :
“As I have been asked to share this again…amazing chalk art picture, the largest ever created in Australia in the forecourt of Customs House.
The night before our wedding in 2014 we walked past the proposed location of our wedding photos and found the area barriered off. At the same time we bumped into a former work colleague, Andi, who explained her new company was creating the amazing artwork. She explained it was a comment on the current political situation in Australia. The mechanical head spewing toxic liquid and consuming books was the then prime minister, Tony Abbott (who was always a NO to same sex marriage and even at the eleventh hour yesterday was trying to derail it). The toddler in the picture, based on Andi’s niece, was left with nothing but mechanical creatures as the ones in nature had been destroyed. A sad picture indeed.
When we explained about out wedding, at the time only possible at the British Consulate, Andi insisted we should be part of the installation and be photographed on the picture. The artwork took two weeks and seven artists to create and as you can see it is 3D, a no mean feat on something so huge.
So the day of our wedding, we had an amazing lunch, went to the Consulate where numbers were limited to 20 guests. I fluffed my lines I was so overwhelmed with excitement, I ended up with both rings and we all cried with happiness. Drinks afterwards in the Customs House forecourt and pictures on the art work.
Now I admit I was concerned as to people’s reactions…I am sad to say I was concerned someone might say something nasty and spoil the day. One of Andi’s team had made us a chalkboard heart with “Just Married” which we had clipped to our lapel. We stepped out onto the picture and played around with where to stand, guided by someone located high above on Customs House. People started taking photos and asking if we had indeed got married, I beamed “Yes” more people gathered. Instead of insults the comments were nothing but congratulations and praise. A little old lady walked past thrilled for us. It couldn’t have been more perfect.”
We were also blown away when a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in an ice bucket arrived at our table. A generous gift from a group of people on there way back to Melbourne after visiting a production company on the North Shore.
Over the next two days, we shared our joy of being married with family and friends. The golden light that seemed to touch our lives after this special occasion lasted for over a year.
Our marriage will now be recognised by the county we have chosen to call home.
Our friends from the UK spent two weeks cruising to Melbourne, Tasmania, New Zealand’s North Island and back to Sydney. It was great to catch up with my college companion after nearly 20 years.
Due to visit three years ago, ill health and earthquakes in New Zealand delayed the dream.
So many things in life seem so far away. Sometimes, the belief that something is unreachable is proven wrong. This thought reminded me of the song, The Impossible Dream, lyrics below:
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march
Into hell for a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lay peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To fight the unbeatable foe
To reach the unreachable star
Songwriters: Joe Darion / Mitchell Leigh
The Impossible Dream lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
There was a time when I would make a point of going for a walk at lunchtime. Since the construction of the light rail has picked up pace, the dust, sounds of heavy machinery and pavements being closed have stymied my weekday routine.
This week I had to go to the bank. Something I used to frequently do, before my dependence on online transacting.
While the journey up High Street to Randwick was noisy and visually unpleasant, I was rewarded with this glorious scene while ambling along Blenheim Street, on the return trip. The combination of textures, colours and shades was compensation enough for my weary senses.
Yesterday was momentous. It was the day, at precisely 10:00 am that the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics began sharing results of the recent marriage equality survey. I was fortunate to be able to share the moment, with work colleagues and friends. We were gathered around an iPhone, intently watching, as it was streamed live by the Australian Broadcasting Company.
A majority of Australians said yes to marriage equality. It’s now up to the politicians, to debate and determine if equality will truly be reflected in the legislation.
Later my husband and I joined friends to participate in the celebrations on the Middle Bar balcony of Kinselas Hotel. Our friend, Meryl anointed me with a glittering rainbow lightening strike. It brought back memories of our excitement of moving to Australia, almost 20 years ago. And of the vibrant and seemingly liberated LGBTIQ community.
In recent years we have increasingly enjoyed the familiarity of our home suburb. Occasionally tasting the declining nightlife, due Sydney’s lock out laws and online dating.
As I stood looking up at the rainbow flag, gently fluttering over the crowd in Taylor Square, a song from Hello Dolly popped into my head. I could not shake that song for the rest of the evening, it was still there this morning.
This rendition is outrageous. Resplendent with marching band, a heavenly chorus and Barbra Streisand belting out the lyrics. It reflects so many moments in my life.
Today is one of them.