When I was two we moved to Australia. It was back in the days when it cost next to nothing to move and my parents both worked for Kodak so they transferred their jobs from the UK to Australia.
It wasn’t all plain sailing as some of our furniture ended up somewhere in the ocean, the rest of it took weeks to arrive. Kodak had arranged a bungalow in Lalor, Melbourne for us to live in so there we were in a lovely house, in a hot country with no furniture.
We’d only just arrived to the house when there was a knock at the door. Bizarrely a cousin of dad arrived, with his family, to introduce themselves to us. Bearing in mind this was way before Facebook we had no idea how he knew we were there! It was very strange inheriting a whole Australian family, and there were a lot of them – seven in total, the house felt very cramped. They lent us some bits for the house until our wandering furniture arrived and I remember lots of visits with them.
Other things I remember:
The cultural diversity of where we lived. So very different to the UK but fantastic to meet people of other nationalities. I remember having dinner with the Italian family across the road. It was fantastic food in a loud environment. There was always some kind of noise coming from their house.
I remember playing Kerplunk with the Mahood family and spending many happy afternoons with them. In and out of the swimming pools that were the norm in the gardens of our street. I could swim when I was three, just took my armbands off one day and off I went.
My first day at school. My teacher was called Mrs. Robinson and I thought the Simon and Garfunkel song was about her. There was fruit and nap time and everyone was smiling.
Almost getting swept up by a whirlwind. We were walking to the bus stop and this freak wind came out of nowhere and off I went. My mum grabbed my leg and pulled me back down. I thought it was great and couldn’t understand why she was so upset.
We had a little dog called Sandy who had puppies. I got up early one morning and fed them chocolate milkshake…on a white carpet! This didn’t go down well at all in the household!
Random creatures coming into the house. Spiders of course and scorpions. I had a net over my bed to keep them and the mosquitoes out. One day a parrot flew into the house and perched on my mother’s shoulder, chattering incessantly, as she was cooking dinner. I think the parrot almost ended up being the dinner!
Christmas in the sunshine. It’s the strangest thing celebrating Christmas in your bikini. My mother insisted on cooking a full blown traditional Christmas dinner. I think the rest of us would have been fairly happy with a BBQ. To add to the atmosphere we had an inflatable snowman but it didn’t feel like Christmas or not as I know it anyway.
Other things I remember; finger painting, miniskirts, the Age of Aquarius song, parties – with the men in one room and the women in another, Tupperware, Popsicles, Disney on Parade, David Cassidy – sigh.
It all seemed like a lovely way of life, most of the time. My mum wasn’t happy though. She moved to what was meant to be a better way of life and ended up working nights. When dad went to work in the day she had to mind me so she really didn’t get any rest. She missed her mother, there were very rare phone calls, possibly twice a year because of the expense. She knew if her mother got ill (and she did quite often) that she couldn’t go to see her.
After four years the Australian dream was over and we packed up and moved back to England. This time we flew back with a stopover for a few days in Singapore. I can vividly remember the Tiger Balm Garden and I’d love to go back there again. We also had a brief stop in India but didn’t get to leave the airport, I did get a yapping dog and a laughing bag though.
Back to cold England. A tanned little girl with a strange accent wearing a mini dress and long white socks. An outsider – the story continues.