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Caramello Koala

“Isn’t it GREEN?” cried The Mothership, taking her hand off the steering wheel and waving it round. “I’ve never seen it so green. Have you ever seen it looking so green?”

“Never!”

For once The Mothership wasn’t exaggerating. It really was green. Australia, that is. At least the little chunk we saw on our trip. Everyone had warned me to expect things to be brown and dead after years of drought. But just before we arrived there’d finally been some rain, and all was lush and bright. As Mum sped along the highway I was glued to the window. The canola crops were blinding yellow, the sky was huge and blue, the trees dripped with cockatoos and galahs. Beautiful. The whole bloody country was conspiring to mess with my emotions.

Many have asked why I haven’t written about Australia yet. And Mum called me on the premise of wishing me happy birthday to ask when was I going to get on with it. Some people even worried that the silence meant the trip went badly. But the problem is the exact opposite. It was so heartachingly fanbloodybrilliant that I’ve been too much of a snivelling, mopey mess to properly write about it.

I never felt homesick until I went home. It’s easy with emails and phone calls to feel like you’re not that far away, but when you’re actually there you see all the details that you didn’t realise you’d missed. A smile or a scent, or even the familiar arrangement of someone’s furniture would trigger waves of memories.

It’s such a tired cliche but you really do have to leave a place in order to appreciate it. When I left Australia in 2003 I literally ran out the door. While The Mothership tried not to cry Rhi and I skipped to our departure gate, cackling madly. I was desperate to escape. I’d grown restless and lacked direction, and felt smothered by people and the past. But two years of travelling made me grow up, let go of old crap and gain some perspective. When I returned home I saw everything and everyone with fresh eyes.

I’d drawn up a relentless schedule for our trip, every day was crammed with at least two or three engagements. For three weeks we scuttled round the country like election campaigners, Gareth gracefully shaking hands and kissing babies. I slipped right back into Australia-mode, slowing down my accent, discarding my g’s and packing in extra vowels.

Seeing all these friends (and eating my grandmother’s caramel slice) left me all soft and mushy. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. It’s easy to feel nostalgic when you’re just breezing in for a visit with everyone rolling out the red carpet for you. You forget about everyday realities like work and paying bills and mosquitos and seeing the Prime Minister’s piggy little face on the news every night. But even without the blinkers, Australia is one kick ass nation, full of kick ass people that mean everything to me, and I will never take that for granted again.

When our plane touched down back in Glasgow, it was rainy and cold.

“Isn’t it GREY?” I smirked to Gareth, “Have you ever seen it looking so grey?”

“I’ve never seen it so grey!”

I wondered if anyone would notice if I stayed on the plane I went straight back to Melbourne.

But the Father-in-law-ship was waiting to drive us home, his usual cheery self. And back in our flat the Mother-in-law-ship had put flowers on the table and stocked the pantry with bread and cheese and posh M&S biscuits. I called Rhi and we gabbed for an hour and I started to remember all the things that kick ass about Scotland.

The next day I wandered to the train station, jetlagged at 6.30am, through the grotty tunnel under the road. I stopped to admire the familiar, searingly intellectual graffiti.

  • Scott the Stoner from Cowdenbeath!!!
  • Tracy Campbell Smells Like Cat Pish LOL Ha Ha!
  • BIG CAL SAYS FUCK U.

On the platform it was windy and pitch black, fallen yellow leaves clung to my shoes. And then it started to rain. And then my train was delayed.

Two weeks later I’m still prone to tearing up just reading the bloody Sydney Morning Herald online and I miss everyone like hell. But over here I have Gareth and new family and friends. And cheap flights to Europe. So maybe it’s possible to feel right at home in two completely different places.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


17 thoughts on “Caramello Koala

  1. Oh god. I understand everything about this post, having gone home three times now and then having come back to ol’ London town. I always find that the first few weeks back in the UK are depressing as hell. But I soon get over it. After my second trip back I went through a traumatic woe-is-me-I-am-so-dislocated-thing because I suddenly realised that I would never belong back in Oz but I would never truly belong in the UK either. I was existing in some netherworld. But you have summed it up perfectly: perhaps it is possible to feel right at home in two completely different places.

  2. Welcome back to the northern hemisphere, Shauny. I understand exactly what you mean with this post. The colours of Australia are what I miss. You can see the sky and it actually IS that blue. I won’t get home till next Christmas, but I already can’t wait. And caramel slice – made to the Australian Grandma recipe – god bless the Women’s Weekly *sob*

  3. You rock, Shauna. Just wanted to make sure you knew. It’s strange how things in your life can come together. *hugs*

  4. We’re contemplating our ‘escape’ from Canberra at the end of next year. My husband has family in they UK who’ve never met our kids (including their only great-grandparent, in Derbyshire) and I’ve always wanted to be a cheap airfare away from Europe. So we’re going to put our life in storage and start again over there. When I tell people our plans they say “oh, but the weather is so bad!” and “wont you miss your mum?” Well, I’m sure it is, and I’m sure I will, but it’s not for ever, and I’m hoping we’ll find our second right-at-home. We might hate it, but I’m ever the optimist and, like you, feel a very strong need to get out of here for a while. And eventually we’ll come back to Australia with new found appreciation for the blue skies and the clean air and the great food and a new appreciation of this life I have now. And if we stay away long enough, someone else might be Prime Minister by the time we get back.

    I’m glad you had a great trip (I hope to read more about it) and I’m glad you got to see Australia looking its springtime best.

  5. crikey, nails hit resoundingly on their heads and so forth.

    As you know Shauna I am ganting to get back to Oz so your piece here fills me with a dull longing for being by the sea and thinking, “Christ, next land fall Antarctica!”.

    The last time I returned from the UK I walked up St Kilda road and was the only one who seemed to think it remarkable even marvellous that a buch of cockatoos were flying overhead.

    all i want is a long black and the saturday Age.

  6. that was very simple and moving, soothing reading and it warmed my heart to read about you and yours – I read the comments and agree with “glenn”.
    Now this should be the paragraph where I spoil it all and talk about MYSELF as I too am an ex person from one country…..

  7. Good lord, you made mme miss Australia and I live here! The stupid piggy minister and his government are doing their level best to root this nation up the arse, so I have been thinking of leaving until we vote in someone better – you’ve changed my mind! Australia does kick ass! Thanks Shauny, and it’s good to have you back.

  8. I, too, now miss the green, green greenness of Australia, and I’ve never been in the Southern Hemisphere.

    By the way, “the father-in-law-ship” doesn’t quite work, does it? But maybe you aren’t free to give the in-laws the nicknames they need. “You can’t call my father Farty Pants!”

  9. Come visit, Eeksy! 🙂 There’s couch space reserved for ya.

    Shaunypants, I DEMAND that you remain miserable in scotland and come back to Oz. heh heh –Or at least come stay for proper ‘god, won’t they ever leave?’ visitin some time soon.

  10. Hugs for Shauny. I used to feel that way about going back to uni after Christmas… even though I was being homesick for the Land of the Grey in midwinter. (Little did I know I would still be here now!) Even if we do lead the world in stupid graffiti.

    Glad you had a lovely time, though… and Australia in spring sounds positively elysian.

    But look! Blue sky today! I’d almost forgotten it existed.

  11. Brilliant writing again and you’ve hit the nail on the head about that home-sickness thing. We’re moving back to live soon and I’m ambivalent, some things I can’t wait for, but there are things I will miss about Amsterdam. NOT the weather, nor the grumpy people, but the proximity-to-other-places will be hard to go without!

  12. I completely understand, and you couldn’t have put it better.

    I have been home twice, and the first time, I couldn’t wait to get back to the UK.

    The second time, I felt like I was being torn away.

    Knowing that I can only stay here for another 10 months makes me appreciate every crappy grey day, but I do have a new found, glorious appreciation for Canada (how is it that I didn’t ever notice how NICE everyone is??).

  13. The grass is always greener ……. Here I am in Melbourne on a grey raining morning wishing I was on the other side of the world as I was over 10 years ago. Maybe I need to buy the Age, make some caramel slice, and admire the wattle birds on my back fence working on the wattle tree.

  14. I found that the South of France was slightly familiar, realising that it reminded me of Oz. Not sure which part or why really, but I did feel comfortable there, even though I couldn’t speak a word of French!

  15. Ditto what they all said. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

    Now what I REALLY want is to hear this Australian twang.. get your mic out and gie us an MP3 or something!!

    And tell the truth, you MISSED the grey, didn’t ya. All that sun is bad for you too…

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