Kay Green, from Huddersfield, who started a new life as a single woman at the age of 50 and embarked on an adventurous year touring the world, tells about her latest exploits in Australia in her continuing series Shoulders Back, Deep Breaths.
Woo Hoo! No Worries in Oz
The Greyhound bus stop at Tin Can Bay is next to a pub and a drive-through off-licence. Is it any surprise I love this country so much when you don’t even have to get out of the car to buy a beer?
I was shattered when I got off the bus, I was grubby and I had a stiff neck from trying to sleep sitting up. (You know what it’s like, as soon as you start to drop off your head falls forward and it wakes you up again. I’d been doing that for hours).
The reason I’d applied to live and work in this particular home were the reviews from people who had stayed with the family in the past. There was just something that appealed to me about the description of them and their lives. I was looking forward to spending time with my hosts Susan, Gavin and their son Mitchell. They were waiting for me as I arrived, and it took about 30 seconds to realise I’d come to the right place. Within that time I’d had a hug, a warm welcome and my nickname ‘The Pom’ was firmly established.
They were full of apologies for the fact that they had double-booked helpers for the time I was due to stay and there was no bed for me; I’d have to sleep on a camp bed in the sewing room. Not the best news to turn up to, but I figured I wanted an adventure, there was never going to be any guarantees that any of my plans were going to work out as I’d expected, and whatever happened, I’d just make the most of it.
The house was beautiful, surrounded by gardens, full of light, and when I arrived, very loud music. The other two helpers, a French girl called Christine, and a Finnish woman whose name is Jenny but soon became christened Random – due to her conversations that started part-way through her stream of consciousness – were cleaning the house, busy with their day. It felt like a home and for all its good and bad that’s exactly what it became.
Arriving into situations like the one I’d just come across can be a bit intimidating if you allow it to be. It’s hard to work out where you’re going to fit in to the routine that’s already been established long before you came. I learned to be patient, to sit and watch and wait for a gap that I could fill. I soon became the chief tea and coffee maker; that was my most important job. The house was never quiet; with teenagers, grandchildren, dogs, cats, cockatoos, friends and family calling in for a natter, it all provided its own brand of entertainment. There was an atmosphere of complete irreverence that was so refreshing, teasing each other became part of our every day, and once we’d all established we were up for it, the laughter it brought filled the house.
The work wasn’t hard. It was just domestic stuff, cooking, cleaning, laundry, ordinary chores that keep a house ticking over. I offered to tidy the gardens – I regretted that after the fourth or fifth day of pulling stubborn weeds out of gravel paths.
It was easy to get involved with life in this family. They were very inclusive and rightly very proud of the area they lived in. Every other day or so we would pack up a picnic, pile into the ‘Ute’ and set off for days out. I’d never driven on a beach before. Rainbow Beach even has a speed limit, and at the weekends it gets so busy it could really do with a zebra crossing.
We certainly made the most of those days out, and we had so much fun together, using body boards to ‘surf’ down the multi coloured sand dunes, driving along a 4×4 track through the rainforest and stopping to appreciate the cool shade and tranquility, that was soon shattered when we started swinging from vine leaves and pretending to be Tarzan.
My favourite day was an early morning fishing trip. I’d never been fishing before. I was excited and a bit nervous about feeling seasick. The sun was just starting to burn away the post-dawn clouds, and as we left the harbour and picked up speed, the spray the boat created caught the sun’s rays and gave the impression of a thousand tiny rainbows. The salt water combined with the breeze made my skin tingle. I felt so alive, so free and so happy, it was utterly joyful. I looked at everyone in the boat with me and excused myself for what I was about to do, then I stood up, raised my arms above my head and let a massive ‘Woo hoo!’ rip from my body.
That day was a turning point for me, I’d had an underlying doubt about my ability to be so far away from all that was familiar. I’d been waking up with a breathless anxiety that made me wonder if I’d done the right thing bringing myself to the other side of the world. Before that day I’d spent a considerable amount of time thinking about getting on a plane and just going back to the UK. That evening while we were eating our freshly caught fish for dinner, I made a decision to stop worrying about the outcome of my trip. I promised myself that I would embrace every day of my adventure, and to leave my worries behind me; to just enjoy my life as I was living it, wherever I was. I’ve taken that sentiment with me everywhere I’ve been since.
I’m back in Australia now until February when I have to fly back to the UK. I’m living in Cairns, I’m with Phil who jokes about the ‘I’m definitely not looking for anything serious’ comment I made on our first date – the fact that he chose to repeat my words to me while I was cooking us dinner wasn’t lost on me.
I’m having most wonderful time and I’ve experienced things I never expected. I have no idea how many miles I’ve travelled in the last few months, but I do know that every one of them has been worth it. Every step I’ve taken and every decision I’ve made has brought me its own reward. While I’ve been trying to work out how to carry on sharing the story of this life I’ve been living with you, I’ve realised that despite the fact that at times I’ve missed my family and friends so fiercely my body has bent double with the pain it’s caused, I wouldn’t swop the year I’m having for anything.
I’ve still got so much to look forward to, a trip to Bali is on the horizon, I’m thinking I might have a go at surfing while I’m there, and it can be another addition to a year that’s seen me bungee jump, learn to scuba dive, fly in a helicopter and travel on boats without a second’s hesitation – and for a woman who used to feel seasick on a Lilo in a swimming pool that last one’s a huge achievement.
Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2016. See you next year.