Kay Green, from Huddersfield, who started a new life as a single woman at the age of 50 and embarked on a year touring the world, takes us back to Oz in her series Shoulders Back, Deep Breaths.
I’m in a bit of a quandary at the moment, in fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m stuck. I’ve taken six months of articles to share, what was in real time, only a few weeks in the Philippines. As a consequence, I’m a full year behind myself, and I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to catch up.
Should I start with where I am right now as I’m typing this? (Huddersfield, sitting at my mum and dad’s dining table – no good for my posture because the chair is too low for me).
Follow on immediately from my article in the July edition and explain what happened after Andrea and I sailed through the early evening thunderstorm to get back to San Pasqual after our day out? (The owner of the boat was waiting for us at the dock and gave the skipper a fierce telling off in Tagalog for being so late. The skipper, in turn, blamed us for it, which in fairness was true, it was our fault.)
Describe how excited I was when I was flying back to Australia in early September 2015 knowing I was going to see Phil again? (Very.)
I only have 1,200 words to fit all of it in and I really am going to have to try and catch up with myself a bit. So, I suppose the last one is a good place to start.
Leaving the Philippines was a mix of emotions, I was sad to be leaving Andrea and the girls, we’d created a nice routine for ourselves, and I’d become very fond of my life there, but I also knew that going back to see Phil again was the right thing to do. I’d missed him much more than I’d expected to and I was eager to see him. I had no idea what the future held, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to find out.
There was a connection between us that was too strong to deny, and despite the fact that I didn’t feel completely ready to allow myself to fall in love again, my brain and body had other ideas. I understood that ignoring what my inner self was telling me, just because I felt scared, was only going to cause me heartache in the end. So I went.
My connection from Manila was a domestic flight up the coast from Sydney to Cairns, the view from the plane is incredible for the whole journey. When I saw the magnificence of the Great Barrier
Reef from above and the familiar rainforest covered mountains as we came into land, I was beside myself with joy. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit Australia. It’s always had a pull on me that I find hard to explain, and being back felt so right. Seeing Phil waiting for me at arrivals, felt so right. I had the strongest feeling I was coming home.
There’s something magical for me about Far North Queensland, it has a raw and natural beauty that fascinates me. I was more than happy to park my backpack in a cupboard and embrace the new life I had committed myself to for the next six months. Our apartment is directly across from the beach, in a small suburb of Cairns. I could describe it as quiet, but that would be to completely ignore the cacophony of noise created by the birds that visit on a daily basis. I got so used to their regular coming and goings that I knew what time of day it was without looking. If the black cockatoos were in the trees, it was somewhere between 3 and 3.30pm, by the time it got to 4.30pm there would be a huge flock of lorikeets making their presence felt as they bullied the others from the branches and take over the view for a while.
I never quite worked out why, but at certain times each morning and late afternoon a school of dolphins swim by, and on a day when the ocean is calm they’re easy to spot. The first time I saw them I was literally jumping up and down with excitement; it’s a magnificent sight for a woman from West Yorkshire!
Phil works away at sea for part of the week. I miss him, but it also suits me in a lot of ways. I love my own company, and it goes without saying how much I treasure my independence, however, I’m a sociable woman in the main, and I need to interact with other people. I started to look for ways to entertain myself. My friendship with Britta, the woman I stayed with on my first trip, grew in the most wonderful way, and I can quite honestly say that I now consider her to be amongst my closest friends. Phil was more than happy to share his best mates me, and Nicola and Fiona (how can you not love a man who has close female friends?), welcomed me with open arms and willingly included me in their lives. I’m a very lucky woman to have been accepted so readily, and I adore the pair of them.
There were times when I missed my family deeply. On more than one occasion the feelings that swept over me caused such a strong physical reaction that I was bent double with the pain of the distance, and I would find it impossible not to cry. It would take me a couple of days to get over having to say goodbye to my mum and dad after a Facetime catch up, but my overall happiness was undeniable.
Phil and I fell into the most delightful routines. Every Thursday when he came home, I would drive into town to pick him up. I always arrived early so I could watch the boat sail into the marina and the thrill of knowing he was on it and on his way back home never left me. I realised I was in love in a way I’d never been before. I was a different woman, and I enjoyed the changes my travels had created in me. I had a calmness and a deep contentment I’d rarely felt.
My flights back were booked for February 2016, I knew I was going to have to leave and the closer the date got the sadder I became. It’s a strange feeling to be so involved in a life that isn’t a permanent thing. Coming back meant a long separation between the two of us was inevitable, and the thought of it was daunting. I began to fully appreciate why Phil had been so insistent that long distance relationships were fraught with problems, but the commitment we made to each other for the time we had to be apart, reinforced the depth of our feelings.
Leaving him and the life I had there was incredibly sad, but the flipside was the complete delight I felt to be on my way to see my family. I’ve been back for seven months, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s been tough and wonderful in equal measure, but I think that might be a story for another time.