The race that stops a nation was held again yesterday. As I celebrated, like many other women the wonderful achievements of the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup I was also reflecting on where I happened to be last year, when the cup was run.
It wasn’t at my desk trying to meet deadlines like this year, it wasn’t in the office tea room sharing a few drinks and snacks as we watched the race on the TV, and it wasn’t frocked up at a Melbourne cup luncheon or race meeting.
I was on a holiday.
Not just a few days away but a proper, planned get-away-from-it- all holiday
A wonderful holiday.
It was a first for me. My children have grown and are making their own lives, my friends have their own commitments, partners, children. My partner would rather go fishing. I needed a holiday that was all about me, for me.
After careful research I booked a seat on a tour bus to travel around Tasmania for a whole blissful, get lost in the wilds 10 day tour.
I was hesitant at first. Was I going to be lonesome? When you are enjoying the breath taking scenery and you turn to share the moment with someone…there wont be anyone there. Will I be OK with this?
I was. More than I could have ever expected. I found I wasn’t really alone. Anonymous, but not alone.I shared these times with a treasured group of other holiday makers. I never dreamed that this trip would bring me in contact with such interesting characters.
Each day I sat on the bus with Milvin, a very serious older lady from Melbourne. As I got to know her over the journey Milvin shared memories of other trips to Tasmania travelling with her children in a combi van not long after her husband passed away, leaving her with 3 children to raise alone in the 1970s.
She was born in northern Italy close to the Austrian border just before World War 2. Her childhood had been tough. Her family had immigrated to Australia, like so many after the war. Her father had been a little too outspoken about the government, they feared for their lives. He worked at the Melbourne airport for his whole life and raised his children in the safeness of the post war city.
At the end of each day Milvin and I fell into the habit of catching up with Roger and Cynthia. They always bought a smile. I got to know that they had a few health issues however this did not get in the way of enjoying every moment of every day.
Roger and Cynthia were ‘ten pound poms”. I had learnt about this era of Australian history and here I was meeting a joyous couple who had paid ten pounds to the government, risked so much by leaving their homeland, packing up their babies and voyaging to Australia in 1950s to help build the young developing nation. They told me how they departed bitter icy England to arrive in Brisbane in one of its biggest heatwaves with just a few suitcases and three children under six. It was tough but they told their stories with mirth and adventure.
Another evening I shared the table with Mike and Sonia. Mike was a true gentleman and an Australian. He was born in Perth, WA and began his wanderlust life early, moving to Malaysia with his family at the age of 9. Apparently his mother had health problems that were alleviated by the climate of Malaysia. As we watched boats sail gently on the breeze and make their way down the Derwent river to bed down for the night at Constitution dock Hobart I discovered Mike. He was schooled in London and had spent most of his life in the UK. He had finished his career as a news reporter for Welsh TV in the UK parliament. My mind still boggles at the turn of events that must have occurred in his life, from an Australian kid in the 1930s to Malaysia and the UK parliament.
His wife, Sonia was born in Jamaica and talked in a wonderful cadence that reflected the fun and enjoyment of her personality. I could listen to both of these people for hours, though Sonia warned “M” several times not to talk politics.
I strolled through the Hobart botanic gardens with Bear and Carol. Bear and Carol were a retired couple that had come together through tragedy. Both had nursed and lost their life partners to cancer. They had formed a companionship to enjoy their retired years together. Carol shared it was an unexpected relationship; she had become resigned to being a single widow for the rest of her life. It was comforting to have Bear around, she felt relaxed with him and was now looking forward to some happy times.
And then there was Frank and Mary. My first and lasting memory of this couple is Mary yelling out “Frank, Frank, FRANK!!” at least ten times a day as Frank didn’t help pack the suitcases, took too long at breakfast, didn’t take his medication, was late back to bus..even getting lost in one town and causing half the bus to be sent looking for him. He arrived with a walking frame (he was 89) but insisted on doing most of the activities from climbing down over 100 steps to view the Remarkables to walking through the pristine wilderness of the southern most points of Tasmania. I’m not sure whether he wanted to enjoy every moment or just annoy Mary, but I admired his stamina…and our bus driver’s patience!
Over a few Tasmanian wines watching the fire flicker at Cradle Mountain Frank and Mary told me they had no children. Frank had worked in real estate, but that seems so long ago now ‘girly’. I asked him if he was enjoying the trip. He let out a deep hurumpf and with one eye watching Mary he said “I didn’t want to come, Mary did. I was happy at home with my newspapers”. Ahh that’s love right there.
I discovered so much more than Tasmania last year.
*actual names have been changed