There are a few postscripts to the 'BIG Trip' series. I would like to start by apologising for the photo quality on the blog posts as these images were taken from video footage. In the process of resizing the images they have come
out pixelated, it wasn’t my intention especially with the group photos but the originals are fine. Anyway, we take up after leaving the Europe Tour bus in London…
Saying goodbye to our fellow Cosmos ‘Europes Highlights’
tour group members back in London in 2005 was hard but dad and I were on a mission. You see, we had arranged to meet my biological mother in northern England that very evening and so we immediately set off by rail to Newcastle, England. I’ve talked about this in a previous post… see Yours By Choice. The train
arrived late in the evening and then we caught a cab to the house in Blyth, Northumberland. We had been told prior to setting out that this area was not good but we continued on.
The taxi driver, seeing no lights on out front
when we arrived, said he would wait till we got inside. I must admit, it was a strange feeling walking to the door of a house when the people inside I had only spoken to briefly on the phone and most of our correspondence had been by letter. However,
we were greeted enthusiastically and were soon safely ensconced inside a little semi-detached house. There we met my biological mother, her ex-husband and then my biological half-brother. We had many cups of tea that night and into the early hours
of morning just chatting about the tour and Australia and England. We would sleep on a mattress on the floor and later in the morning we had more food and of course more tea and chat.
We were back in a cab and back to Newcastle
in the mid-afternoon for the train journey back to London. Dad and I would spend that night in separate hotels as he was leaving the next morning for Istanbul, Turkey and his Gallipoli/Troy tour on the way back home to Australia. Up till this point
most things had been booked from back home in Australia. I was to stay on in London and perhaps try to get a job and/or tour more and in the very short term would stay with my cousin in Kensington. So I walked with my dad to his hotel and we said
our goodbyes. I then caught a cab to my hotel and I didn’t know when I would next see my dad. I was, by this time tired of travelling, tired of living out of a suitcase in different hotels but was excited to see what the future would hold.
The next day I walked through Hyde Park, visited the Churchill War Rooms Museum and took a spin on the London Eye. Along the way I ran into an older couple from the tour and we had a bit of a chat. I would go on to Trafalgar Square,
Piccadilly Circus, the Diana Memorial and see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Not a bad way to spend my first morning in London alone. I would end the day having a few drinks and then dining with my cousin in a byo Rotisserie followed
by moving to his place and calling my mum.
The following day I went for a walk again ostensibly to grab some travel brochures and check my emails at a local internet café but along the way I checked out the famous Aussie hang
out called Earls Court. When I got back there was a message from my young lady friend and it turns out they had just arrived back in London. When I arrived at the pub to meet
them, there was her, her mum and a friend from their tour group. The day would not end till 5am the next morning, it started with dinner and drinks at a nearby pub then more drinks at the hotel they were staying at. During that night we talked to a few
English blokes who were, at first, trying to chat up my friend but then we were all having drinks and laughing. Those blokes finished up by saying that we seemed good together and they headed off leaving just the two of us to sit in the foyer after the
pub closed and just chat.
I would head home at 5am and when I got back to my cousins place, I rang mum , it was good timing due to the time difference between Australia and UK. It was about 9 hours behind Australia. Mum asked
me what time it was over there and I told her it was 5:30 in the morning. She said “Gee, you’re up early?” I said “I haven’t been to bed yet”. She was surprised but then told me to go and have a sleep.
I took my mums advice and had a couple of hours zzz…
I got up later that morning, then called my friend and she said to come round and we could go for a walk. I caught the tube and walked around the corner to the hotel to
meet her and her mum. We just walked and talked, grabbed a bite to eat and by then it was evening and they had to head to the airport. I was still trying to convince the young lass to stay in the UK with me and her mum seemed quite supportive but
there were several issues back home and so she finally left. I knew she had a relationship back home and I often said that as soon as she got back home she would forget about me. I had a feeling then that this was just a holiday thing but she told
me in no uncertain terms that was not how it was. In fact, she wanted me to come back to Australia soon and then come to her place.
After the sad farewell I caught the train back to my cousin’s place and went for dinner
at another local restaurant. My cousin was doing alright for himself and always seemed to be eating out. He told me this is what they do here in London. As such, he didn’t seem to have much in the way of food in his apartment, just
a few basics. I just couldn’t believe the prices in London, but I was using the conversion rate all the time. At that time the Aussie dollar to the British Pound was like 3 to 1. So, just to get a KFC meal for say 4 to 5 pounds was
like 12 to 15 Aussie dollars. I had to realise that if you’re earning pounds it’s okay to spend pounds but if you’re earning dollars then it’s hard to spend those pounds.
The next day I would book a
tour to Eastern Europe through a local travel agent. The tour that I wanted was fully booked and there wasn’t another one to commence for another couple of weeks. They said that I might be charged a little extra on the flights because of the open
ended nature of my ‘round-the-world’ tickets. I went home and tried to book the change in flights through the airline and they wanted to charge me something like US $125 per change. What I had planned involved several changes of flights.
You see, all I had was an open ticket back home stopping in Singapore whereas dad had his booked to go to Istanbul and then home. I was pretty annoyed at the extra costs and was feeling tired and emotional. I got calls throughout from my
young friend on her way back to Australia and these made me re-think my further touring. Had I known then what I knew later on I would have continued on touring but that wasn’t my mind set then.
I made calls home and
mum told me that dad was on his way home after visiting Turkey. So, over the next few days I kept thinking whether I should just go home or keep touring or look for jobs. I had checked out the employment section during this time but found that
I needed a fixed abode. I had use of my cousin’s place for that week as he was away with friends. When he came back it would be a different story. I had to make up my mind quickly but luckily I had another distraction coming up.
So, I pretty much made up my mind in that time and cancelled the tour. Of course I lost a bit on cancellation fees but I was just sooo over it. Eastern Europe and even Gallipoli/Troy would have to wait for another time. I just booked the
The distraction came in the form of the 3 ladies we had met on the US leg of this trip who were by now back in their home town of Middlesbrough
and had invited me to come up to see their place. So, I would again head off by train northwards and was met at the station by one of them who then drove me all around Redcar and Saltburn before checking me into a local hotel. Later that evening all four of us would have dinner at Whitby and check out a Viking themed celebration at the Abbey. The
night ended with fireworks and a talk about astrology in the Viking era.
It was quite cold back in the hotel and I slept fitfully. The next morning I would be driven back to the station for the train back to London. I thanked
the ladies for a great time and showing me around. I said if they were ever coming to Australia they should look us up. This was to be my last day in the UK and I was booked on a flight home later that evening.
When I got back
to London it turned out to be the ‘hottest day on record’ for that time of the year in something like 30 years… It was quite funny to me to see people wearing singlets, shorts and sandals sitting in deck chairs in the park sunning themselves
and yet there I was still wearing long sleeves and jeans. In the sun it was pretty warm but in the shade it was still quite cool. I got back to the apartment and packed my bags and left for Heathrow airport for what would be the long flight home.
On the flight home, I did not sleep much and was mostly playing arcade games and watching movies. It was not the best way to fly as I would, for a week or more afterwards, suffer the terrible effects of ‘jet-lag’. I would be walking around during the day yawning all the time, couldn’t focus on anything but at night would just be watching the alarm clock tick over. I even thought of medication during this time but
ended up taking my mums advice and just having a glass of wine before bed and this helped me get back my sleep rhythm.
The phone calls from my young lady friend would continue for a little while and a bit of an email chat as well
but it would all come to nought in the weeks following. I have mentioned in a previous post, receiving an email titled ‘Get a life’, well that was from her and it was the last communication we would ever have. At that point I had started
sharing a flat with a friend of a workmate of mine and was going back to work at the very place I had had my unpaid leave from. I’m sure my friends back in my hometown got sick of hearing about all this but to them I say “Thank You”
for providing distractions and getting me through.
The following year I would, unbeknownst to me at the time, travel overseas again, only not to Eastern Europe but return to the USA. I had started to revisit my poetry during this
time, the young lady had bought that out in me and although I had always written little poems I hadn’t taken it very seriously till then. I guess I can thank her for that, as it would lead me to travel to the US again for the Poetry Symposium of
2006..see Ravens Rhyming ways and further my exploration of US and then on to Japan. More about my further travels in another post….
Now, it is 2014, and I can’t believe all this touring and such happened 9 years ago. I have definitely moved on with life and have a very loving partner. Though there’s a lot of water under the bridge, so to speak,
I am still basically the same person only older and sometimes I do wonder how life would be if I had taken another path. Oh well, one can’t turn back time so I guess I will never know. Though I reckon now, and it has been suggested amongst
those I have kept in contact with that the Europe group have a reunion in 2015 – 10 years on. Hmm.. and on the 100th Anniversary of the Anzac – Gallipoli landings. You see, I still want to do Gallipoli/Troy and then Eastern
Europe… I know for sure the President and 1st Lady of Cosmos Euro Highlights Tour 2005 would like that idea…. I can say the PM of Bad Aussee loves the idea but it’s the budget that is in the duldrums. As for Bad Aussee,
I wrote the poem after returning to Australia…
Bad Aussee in Austria
town we found,
A little spot on the map.
So, the jokes went around,
There was so much to tap.
Heaps of tall stories followed,
Hoop snakes, drop-bears abound.
So, watch you don’t get swallowed,
Its just those Bad Aussies making sound.
We were hitting the ‘frog and toad’,
On a European vacation.
Aussies and others by the busload,
Keeping up our jocular reputation.
Up went the shout,
“Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!”
Its not the behaviour of a single lout,
But a tour group filled with joy.
We went from teaching others “G’day Mate!”
To making roles for ourselves and a motto.
It’s amazing what Aussies can create,
Even when we’re far from blotto.