Saturday, March 14, 2015

Home again, home again, jiggety jig... by Sheila Claydon

As the nursery rhyme says, Home again, home again, jiggety jig. Here I am, back in England after 5 months in Australia, and one of the first things in my diary is the Books We Love Blog.  With jet lag from the 11 hour time difference and the remains of a heavy head cold, courtesy of my last days in Sydney, blurring my thoughts, what am I going to talk about.  Well the obvious is what is it like to be back home again?

Coldish, wet and windy is my first answer but then I pause and think. No! Blue skies greeted us when we arrived home and it hasn't rained that much either, just enough to keep everything fresh. Anyway we wouldn't have the nodding snowdrops and  daffodils or the cheerful yellow primroses in the garden without it, nor the lake full of birds and the very welcome spring catkins on the trees. The cold isn't all that bad either, not with the right clothes and boots. Nor is the wind any worse than the one we experienced most days in Sydney, it's just a lot cooler.

So what is different? Well a brisk walk along the beach showed us how the winters winds have reshaped many of the sand hills, uprooted trees and  carved new paths amongst the spiky maram grass that holds the dunes together. Whole swathes of the old Christmas trees that are used every year as barricades against the worst of the weather have been washed away by the high tides, leaving jagged stumps and broken branches behind them, while familiar logs and sheltered hollows have disappeared completely. Similar things happen every winter without doing much to attract our attention but after 5 months away we find ourselves looking at our familiar walks with new eyes.

We've looked at our local supermarket in the same way too and been very surprised. Where half a year ago the shelves were full of fresh meat, now the butchery has whole sections of pre-cooked joints and fancy cuts that only need twenty minutes or so in the cooker. The instant food aisle has expanded too with more ready meals than I knew existed. Although I'm not very interested in either of these phenomena I can appreciate that many people will benefit greatly from the time saved or, in the case of the older people who live in the community, a much easier cooking experience.

The people haven't changed though. Our neighbours are the same. There are the same number of dogs being walked on the field opposite our house. The garden has held together through the winter too, as have the fences, which has not always been the case in previous winters. True one friend has suffered a mild stroke but she has fully recovered, while another has come into some unexpected money which is lovely, but on the whole everyone is the same.

So if everything is much the same back home what are we missing about Australia?  Well the warmth obviously, although not the searing heat we experienced at times which was a bit too much for us. We do miss going bare foot in the house though, and only needing our sandals outside. Our skin was better too. The constant heat meant that it was always slightly damp and hydrated whereas in England the winter winds and the central heating have already made it feel tight and dry.

We miss the family of course but our English family are doing their best to compensate. Ditto with friends. Having to spread ourselves between 2 continents is difficult, expensive, and when we have to say goodbye, heartrending. On the other hand it has broadened our experience of life immeasurably, given us new friends, and also made us appreciate our home more than we might have done if we'd never been away.

People who read my books say that it's like buying a ticket to romance because I use many of my travelling experiences in my stories. I'm sure I'll be doing it again when I've had time to think about all the things that have happened in the past 5 months, but in the meantime I have already set one of my books partially in Australia. In Cabin Fever the hero and heroine are working on a cruise ship as it sails from Auckland to Sydney. This book was the result of a previous trip to the other side of the world. Who knows what will result from this one.

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