“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?”
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 my sister and I skipped to our departure gate, cackling madly. I was desperate to escape. I’d grown restless and lacked direction and felt stifled by 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 6.30 am, 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.