As I write this blog, my first in a while, I do so with a completely broken heart. My lovely Mum died on 16th December following a covid related stroke 9 days earlier. Although she had some ongoing health problems there was absolutely nothing which was ever considered life threatening and certainly we expected her to be around for a few more years yet. It’s a particular hard blow given that Dad only died in May, and whilst we did expect Dads death as he had been rapidly declining with dementia for the last 2 years, Mums unexpected death so soon afterwards has truly shaken us to the core.
I could write pages and pages simply about my grief or how horrific the last few months have been for my Mum, locked up in a care home and having to grieve her husband of 52 years in complete isolation, but that’s not really the focus of this blog.
There was however a newspaper cutting that my Mum was carrying around in her handbag for the last few months which was an advert for a rail trip across Australia and Mum was determined to go as soon as the pandemic was over. This was despite being 82 and now wheelchair bound due to earlier stroke in February – she NEVER gave up on her dreams.
My Mum planted the seeds of my Wanderlust from the very earliest age, because before I was even born Mum as a young 26 year old nurse set sail on the Castel Felice and sailed out of Southampton Waters to begin a new life down under in Australia as a £10 pom in February 1964
I could write not just another blog about my Mums voyage to Australia but an entire book. However that really is a whole other story!
Mum completed her contractual 2 years in Australia and then returned home to England in 1966 aboard the Northern Star. She had gone out to Australia down through the Suez Canal and came back across the Pacific and through the Panama canal so she had completely circumnavigated the globe by the age of 28.
Mum only really came back to England to visit her parents, but she pined for the land of endless sunshine, the land which to her was always ‘home’.
Within days of arriving back on England’s shore she booked another passage back to Australia, only this time it was a one way ticket….she planned to make Australia her forever home.
Fate had different plans for her though and in Jan 1967 she met my Dad at a party and 14 months later they married, going on to have my sister in 1969 and myself in 1970.
There was only one problem though – Dad not only didn’t share in her dream to live in Australia, he was absolutely terrified of flying and hence Mum never ever returned to Australia, despite leaving a huge part of her heart there.
One of my very earliest memories was Mum getting out all of the many slides she took during her two years in Australia, setting up her projector and screen to share her photos, stories and memories of the land she loved. I remember her photos of Sydney Opera House still in the building process and seeing the beautiful blue mountains…all in black and white. Even at the age of just 4 or 5 the seeds of my own wanderlust were being planted as my Mum showed us this big wide world which was there for us to explore.
There is a certain irony now that my very first views of Australia were through Mums eyes, and her very last views of Australia were through my eyes (and of course Cameron’s)
Our holidays as children were much more low keys as money was tight, it was youth hosteling to Scotland or caravan holidays on the Isle of Wight, but my Mum really did give me the world, she taught me to dream, she inspired me and she gave me the gifts of independence and self belief.
Despite her deep deep sadness when Dad died in May, she still believed that despite her own new disability she would now at least be able to take one final trip back to Australia. Sadly that trip was never meant to be. I have however ordered Mum a very special coffin for her final journey and when the world opens up again we WILL take part of her ashes back to Australia and scatter them in Sydney Harbour. It will be an emotional journey but we will complete this incredible circle of love in the most positive way we can, and I know Mum will be watching over with a big smile as we make the final journey that she was unable to do in person, and finally bring her home to the place where she left her heart more than 54 years ago.