Monday, 22 July 2013

A bumpy landing?

While making myself emotionally ready for a move to Sydney seemed fairly straightforward, the physical practicalities of the move were more drawn out.
To start with, I needed to save £2000 prior to applying for my visa. This meant continuing in my job at Sainsbury’s. Obviously I didn’t want to let them know I was planning to leave within the year, which meant keeping my plans secret.
I’d checked with friends that I was able to leave my books and CDs in their basement, I went ahead and booked my flight, I let friends and family know of my intentions and with all the boxes checked, settled in for the long wait: Making plans to move is one thing, waiting a year to actually do so is another.
Time dragged on. It was an interesting year: Having previously had no real interest in domesticity, buying furniture, crockery, decorating etc, I suddenly found myself admiring sofas, bowls, paintings, random items I’d never contemplated before. It was as if with my life on hold, sat interminably in the departure lounge, I suddenly craved roots, some semblance of permanence and stability.
I managed to speak to Tom once every ten days or so. We’d email fairly regularly, but it was the long talks into the night that meant the most. When I told him I planned to move out to Sydney for at least a year his initial reaction was ecstatic.
“Aaah Mate that’s great news! How long would you be here for?”
“Well I guess a year at least. I can get a year long working holiday visa, but I shall probably look to get sponsored pretty soon into it so I can stay longer if I want to.”
“And when are you thinking of?”
“May next year.”
“Awesome! I’ll keep an eye out for somewhere for you to stay nearer the time. I can’t believe it – it’s bloody brilliant!”
“I’m glad you think so,” I laughed.
“Of course I do, I can’t wait! May next year, only eleven months to wait then.”

Of course over time the reality of the situation set in. Not that I expected Tom to hang around, or be available, but of course it was what I was hoping would happen and I guess it scared him.
“Look I’m stoked you’re coming, y’know that right?”
“Yeah I know...” I paused sensing the hesitation in his voice, “Why what’s the matter?”
“Well it’s a big move y’know and I just want to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, that you’re doing this because you want to, not because of… well not for me.”
I sat down on the edge of my bed, “Hey don’t worry, I like you, but I’m not crazy honest!” I tried to laugh it off, “To tell you the truth Tom, I’ve been wanting to get out of London the last few years, it’s never really been home for me, and I can only do this now – once I turn 27 I’m no longer eligible for the visa. I wanna do this while I can.”
“I know, I get it. I just don’t wanna put any pressure on us.”
“Of course, I understand and neither do I. I admit, you’re a draw card, but at least 70% of my decision to come has been about exploring another country, living somewhere other than the UK for a while.”
“Good. And we’ll have a great time when you’re here anyway. I miss you y’know?”
It was a theme we returned to often and I should have seen the signs there and then. Instead I convinced myself that I was going to Australia for the experience, that Tom was just an added bonus and that if for whatever reason that part didn’t work out, that it would all be worth it anyway.

And then suddenly I had a month left. I planned to leave in style, a final weekend with the boys down in Cardiff, before moving out of the house I shared with Claire to stay rent free with a friend for the last ten days. My life in London was finally coming to a close.

“Hey Babes, it’s me. I’ve got some great news for ya.”
“Oh yeah? I hope it’s about the weather; I’m sick of the grey skies and bloody rain here. Tell me it’s sunny in Sydney right now.”
“It’s bloody gorgeous mate! You should see the sky here at the moment, bloody lovely… Look, I can’t talk long; I just wanted to let you know I’ve found you a place. A studio in Potts Point, overlooking the water, furnished, it’s perfect. A friend of mine is renting it out, I’ve spoken to him already and he’s happy to let you have it. I’ll pick you up from the airport and we’ll go straight to the estate agents to sign the paperwork and pick up the keys. I can’t believe it, bloody perfect timing… Err are you still there?”
“Sorry I’m just a bit gob smacked. To think in a week I’ll be living in Sydney!”

Kingsford Smith International Airport is the gateway between Sydney and the rest of the world. It’s named after Charles Kingsford Smith; one of Australia’s pioneering aviators. He made the first trans-Pacific flight from the United States to Australia. He also made the first non-stop crossing of the Australian mainland, the first flights between Australia and New Zealand and the first eastward Pacific crossing from Australia to the United States (thanks Wikipedia). Ironically few people outside of Sydney let alone the rest of the world know who he was. And I think Sydneysiders know of him only in reference to their Airport. He was also saved from drowning by a group of bathers at Bondi Beach. This same group of bathers went on to form the world’s first official lifesavers a week later, probably in response to his rescue, so he’s also inadvertently responsible for hot blokes in tiny Speedos (called budgie smugglers by the locals – a budgie being a small bird) running around dragging hapless souls from the water while pulling said Speedos as far up their bums as possible. I’m not sure whether this improves their speed in the water but as the locals say, “it’s a good look”, so who cares.

Unlike so many other aiports, Kingsford Smith seems to spit you out fairly quickly and it was only half an hour between landing and standing nervously at the gate, having  survived immigration, baggage claim and customs; my eyes flitting back and forth hoping to catch a glimpse of Tom amidst the sea of people waiting to greet their loved ones.

“Hey there stranger.”
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to be blinded by the pearly whites of Tom’s beaming smile. I dropped my carry on and threw my arms around his tall, lean frame.
“You look good, you’ve caught the sun.”
“Yeah well we had a long summer, although it seems like years ago, it is May now y’know, I hope you’re not expecting to hit the beach anytime soon.”
“It’s so good to see you!”
“Yeah well and it’s good to have you here too. It’s been a long time coming.” Tom held me at arms length and looked me up and down, wrinkling his nose “You’ve put on weight.”
I must have looked taken aback: It was true I’d put on a few pounds in the year in the UK, nothing extreme though, but as an opener from Tom I was certainly surprised. He saw the look on my face and changed the subject, “C’mon we can catch up in the cab.”

Tom grabbed my large suitcase, leaving me to pull the smaller carry on case and wove his way through the crowd.