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This is the month, the one itís all been leading up to. It begins here in London and will conclude in Melbourne and unlike in previous years, that will be that: I wonít be coming back. Iíve bought a one way ticket, after which everything will be different. We have so many plans and who knows which ones will come to fruition and which may fall by the wayside. All I do know is it's something weíre going to be doing together. Itís the next chapter in the story of Us. And who knows what may be around the corner.
Iím enjoying being here in the flat. The days have been mild. Iíve had the windows open to allow the summer breeze to blow through. Iíve stood at the kitchen window and gazed out at the riot of colour spilling from the plant pots and planters outside. Iíve looked out over the rooftops of the buildings across the road and watched pedestrians strolling by in their short sleeve shirts and summer dresses. This is a great little flat in a great central location. I know Iím going to miss it but Iím here enjoying today, and thatís enough for now.
Iím dragging my feet but I canít help it. I just canít seem to crank up into top gear. Even getting into first is proving to be a challenge. I tinker around the edges of what has to be done and every now and then Iíll have a burst of activity but then things stall and stutter to a halt. I become distracted and listless. Thereís a part of me thatís still having difficulty with the whole concept of heading back home. I mean, how can it be home when this is home? And whoís going to water the plants?
If we were going together it would be different. Everything would be in boxes. The furniture would be gone and weíd be staying with friends. But weíre not going together. Youíre staying on for another few months. So it all feels normal still. And then one day weíll wake up, Iíll pack my things, walk out the door for the very last time and that will be that. For me, this will no longer be home. And then, as I fly away for good, youíll come home, climb into bed, alone with the knowledge that I wonít be coming back.
Maybe there are questions we shouldnít ask. It flies in the face of all I believe in but thatís often the nature of belief: itís there to be tested and challenged. Sometimes thereís a fine line between pragmatism and plain old self-deception; the things we choose to fly in the face of or deny altogether, only to find ourselves mopping up the seepage later. Thereís the world as it is and the world as weíd like it to be. Sometimes it thereís no discernible contradiction between the two. At other times . . . well, that where the question of self-deception kick in.
I hate it when we argue. Itís such a waste of time and energy and these are things we donít have a lot of right now. For some reason youíve got it into your head that I donít trust you. I in turn am appalled that you could ever think that. Yes there are times when I get my facts wrong and you call me to account. I may not like it but I am able to admit when this is the case; however, call my integrity into question when Iíve done nothing wrong and I wonít give an inch.
Itís a testament to the durability of relationship that we always manage to push on through the difficult times. And in truth, such times are not so difficult. Not all is resolved but it will be. Itís what we do. Itís why weíre still together. The things that trip us up are not so numerous nor so weighty, however much they may seem so in the heat of the moment, and however much we may try to hang on to the anger we can rarely sustain it for long. Weíre simply tired, stressed and dreading the separation that looms ahead.
I keep looking at things wondering whether itís the last time Iíll notice them; things Iíve seen a thousand times; thing that have become the fabric of my daily life: the wonky chimneys across the road, the crisscrossing of vapour trails in the blue sky above, the weird guy who hangs out on the corner of Caffe Nero or the precise shadow of an ornate streetlamp on the wall behind it. So much of what we see and do in life we take for granted, never consciously registering how fleeting things can be, no matter how common they may appear.
Iím trying not to think about it. When I do I begin to well up, and thatís not a good look for a guy my age. So I try to rationalise the feelings away. Itís only going to be temporary. Itís for a good cause. The time will fly by. Sometimes Iím successful; sometimes not. I worry about leaving you behind. Itís always harder on the one whoís left behind. And thereís still so much that needs to be done! Iím not usually one to wish my life away, but in this instance, I just want this to be over.
What to take and what to leave behind: itís a perplexing question. Iíve chosen to fly with Emirates because of the higher baggage weight allowance of 30 kilos and Iím surprised at how much Iíve managed to squeeze into my very large suitcase but there are still difficult choices to be made. My Bose desktop speakers are a must, as is my portable hard drive. Clothes are light and provide padding. Many things are going to be sea freighted but I need to be sure Iíve got the essentials. Because four months is a long time to wait for essentials.
This is it Ė the moment of departure. The engines are firing, the farewells have been made and Iím strapped aboard Emirates flight 006 with my heart in my mouth. ďAnd ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.Ē How truly those words now resonate. Farewell my love. I know itís only for a few months but right now it feels like an eternity. Itís not just the time apart; itís the end of an era. A new one beckons I know but right now all I know is I already miss you terribly.
Iím sitting in transit at Dubai Airport, an enormous, impressive structure crawling with people from every corner of the globe. Eight hours into the journey and Iím feeling tired, groggy but otherwise okay. While I write you sleep, or not as the case may be. With the farewells behind us we can both now get on with the business of moving things forward. No longer counting down the days until I leave we can now begin counting down the days until you arrive. Thatís the theory at least. In the meantime I have another 16 hours of flying before me.
Iím here. Iíve arrived. It feels strange. Iíve been here before but not like this. Iím not here on a holiday. This is not my annual tour of duty. Iím here to stay. This is my home now. It doesnít feel like home yet. My head is still full of the flight and of all Iíve left behind in London. Itís going to take a while to make the readjustment but time is what I have a lot of at the moment. No doubt Iíll feel better after a good sleep, but for now Iím simply taking stock of everything.
Iíd forgotten about Huntsmen spiders. For those who donít know theyíre big, hairy and harmless but this latter characteristic tends to get overlooked when you come out of the shower and find one perched on top of the clothes you intend to wear. And so it was I found myself this morning pounding every item of clothing until Iíd managed to inflict the maximum amount of damage upon my poor, unsuspecting victim and ejected his crumpled remains from the building. Upon reflection I think I could have handled the situation a little differently but then, hindsight is a beautiful thing.
As of today my temporary base here in Melbourne is in South Yarra. A couple of old friends have offered me a room to stay in exchange for minding the house while theyíre away in Bali. It means I donít have to face the prospect of bedding down on a variety of couches across Melbourne for the next few days. Itís surprising how quickly Iím acclimatising to being back here. I went to a staff reunion at my old school yesterday. So many familiar faces, so many good memories. It made me wonder where the last ten years have gone.
We used to live in South Yarra. We rented a little flat on the hill. We loved that little flat. We loved South Yarra too, with its bustle of activity, its proximity to the Prahran Market and its easy access to both the city and the sea. Itís where we first set up home together. For you it was your first real taste of living in Australia. For me it felt like coming home. And walking past our old address today I couldnít help but smile. It made me feel closer to you and the distance between us less daunting.
I can barely believe how much rain weíre getting. Itís been years since Melbourne has experienced a winter like this. We all genuinely believed the climate had permanently changed and that may still be the case. Melbourne winters are traditionally much like English ones. Itís why so many choose not to live here and why so many others do. I fall into the latter group. Australia is the driest continent on the planet. Water is something we cannot and do not take for granted. So to see so much of the wet stuff falling from the sky is really heartening.
With a few notable exceptions, most of my friends in England have only known me for a few short years. Here in Australia itís very different. Since arriving back Iíve managed to touch base with a few good friends and in Adelaide I intend to link up with someone I never imagined Iíd see again; someone I once knew and who had a most profound impact on my life. It can be refreshing not having the baggage of history but there is also a lot to be said for spending time with people who knew us when we were young.
I have to admit Iím impressed. I knew youíd been through a difficult time but I had no idea just how bad things have been and over such an extended period. To be honest there were times when I thought our friendship had run its course. So to see you now making such headway is not only heartening, itís inspiring. For the fact of the matter is we all have our demons to wrestle with and if you can do what youíre doing it begs the question, what could I be doing better? And isnít that the gift of friendship?
After seeing my friends off as they set out for Bali, I set about doing some odd chores around the house. Once completed I became seduced by the thought of having wine and pizza, so I set off to buy both. Upon returning I discovered the power had gone off. Unable to locate the source of the problem I spent the next hour trying to solve the problem. To my relief it was restored about an hour later, by which time the wine had reached room temperature and the pizza had become chilled. So much for wine and pizza!
You have flown in from Japan and more recently from Sydney and here we are, chatting away as though distance and time are of no consequence, and in truth theyíre not, for this is the city where we first became acquainted and where we sat eating pizza late at night in your car and dreaming of London, a dream that has now been lived and become a memory for us both.
Such is life.
The pleasure of your company has helped normalise and ground me here once more, a gift from you before flying off into the blue once more.
Itís odd being a guest in someone elseís home when theyíre not there. Iím certainly grateful for the opportunity to have a constant base. The thought of having to move around every couple of days until I can move into the apartment was not one that I had relished. And this is a very nice house, albeit a rather chilly one. There are wonderful books to read, a good collection of CDs and an open fire should I wish to get one started. Itís just that the sense of otherness is making me feel all the more separated from you.
Skype is a wonderful thing. To be able to see you as well as hear you and to know that you too can see and hear me helps to make the distance between us that much less daunting. I can see your smile when I say something funny, or read your concern when Iíve not explained something clearly enough. I can see the painting on the wall behind you and the way the cushions never quite stay the way they should on the couch. So thank you, the person who invented Skype, whoever you are. Iím really glad you did.
While sitting by the window this evening I was amazed at how much rain came crashing down out of the sky. After so many years spent in a double-glazed flat in London, cushioned from the immediacy of the elements, it was exhilarating to witness such a spectacle. What little traffic there was slowed to a crawl. The pounding of the rain on the veranda outside was deafening. This has been the wettest winter in Melbourne for nearly two decades. Water reserves have reached nearly 40% capacity. After years of draconian water restrictions itís amazing to be getting so much rain.
As we touch down in Adelaide it begins to rain. The gathering wind rocks the plane from side to side. The downpour is torrential and unrelenting. The planned rear exit is hastily aborted and we all file out via the front of the plane. Gazing out at the sky I recall how the rain here can sweep in from seemingly nowhere and drench everything in its path before disappearing just as quickly and as I board the bus into town all is transformed into a sun-drenched landscape of clean and tidy tree-lined streets where everything is glistening in the sunlight.
Sheís so painfully frail. I sit and hold her hand. She looks calm, peaceful; her impossibly clear blue eyes gazing back at me. She has absolutely no idea who I am. Weíve been here before but not like this. The transition is complete and much to my own surprise I am at peace with that. Itís not that she doesnít know she has a son. She just canít connect him with the middle aged man gazing back at her. So I tell her that he sends his love and that he loves her very much, and at this, she smiles.
On the very same day that Iím up to my ears with worry about the sale of the flat in London I reconnect with someone I havenít seen in 30 years, except maybe once, and thatís meeting that neither of us can quite determine a date for. I am bowled over by the immediacy of the warmth we share; of how much is intrinsically understood. We go for lunch and itís as though weíve never been apart. Thereís so much to talk about and so much to share; a whole lifetime of living to catch up on. What sweet pleasure!
The only sound I can hear is the rip rip rip of the crickets in the fields outside. There are no double-decker buses passing by the window; no low rumble of late night delivery trucks on their nocturnal rounds; no clinking of patronsí glasses from a nearby restaurant nor late night revellers disturbing the peace; no sirens piercing the evening stillness nor faulty alarm systems going off with no certainty of cessation. No, all I can hear the crickets as they fill the evening air with a pervasive resonance that sooths the soul and beckons me to bed, and rest.
Live long enough and you begin to appreciate the elegance of life. Things that once seemed impossible end up coming to pass and we can be left wondering whether there might have been some overarching blueprint underpinning everything which makes sense of the disparities between the life we once thought we were going to lead and the one we now find ourselves living. Then again, maybe itís less complicated than that. Maybe itís simply a question of having a heart that is open and eyes that can see in a world where the eyes and hearts of so many are closed.
It was an invitation I couldnít refuse. Once was not enough. When such meaningful connections are made there is a need to nourish and a desire to enhance. So I sat and listened to the music, shared in the homely banter and went walking with you, my new-found friend, just like we used to all those years ago when the world was a little younger and life stretched before us like the empty pages of an unwritten book. Much of that book has since been mapped out but itís good to know the remaining pages will have you in them.
Sitting with a coffee here at Adelaide Airport my world looks very different now to how it did a few weeks ago. Itís been a period of major transition, one in which anxiety and relief have been coupled together in equal measure, and one in which the sadness of saying farewell has been compensated for by the renewal of old friendships. The momentum of these past few months has been accelerated. Some unknowns have become known, some worries have proven groundless and Iím beginning to feel more upbeat about the road ahead.
And that has to be a good thing.
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