By Norma Morton
When I was young, I yearned to travel. From the time my father sailed to England when I was six years old, the desire to follow in his footsteps was etched on my heart. In 1974 I took my chance and boarded the ship, the Northern Star. Not knowing a soul, but with the belief that I would make friends, that six-week voyage resulted in finding those friends who have remained in my life, albeit scattered, for 45 years. We’re spread around Australia and Canada and when our Canadian friend recently returned home for a visit it was suggested that we would meet in Sydney for a reunion, the first time we had all been together since those halcyon days in ’74.
Travelling when young is a little different to when you are older. Despite growing up and living in Melbourne until the late eighties, I have become a bit of a bumpkin. The prospect of travelling to Sydney for a couple of days was a little daunting, but the desire to meet up with erstwhile friends of such long standing was overwhelming and the clincher was when my son said he would join me to finally meet these people.
Step one – purchase a Myki card. Step two – cadge a lift to Ballarat station to catch a train to the city. Step three – try not to scream “where the hell am I” when stepping onto the platform at Southern Cross Station. The last time I was in Southern Cross, I‘m sure only two trains could fit into the platform, now I think it is more like twenty-two. When did platform 4 become 4a, 4b, 4c and so on. Son and heir said he would meet me at the Collins Street end – where the hell was Collins Street? I headed toward where I thought it might be and with relief, saw him walking toward me. No endearing greeting of “hello son”, all I could do was stand on the platform and gasp “it is so f@#*ing big”. The fact that we’d hit the beginning of peak hour didn’t help, nor did my imitation of a gaping mouthed booby from the bush. Running the gauntlet through a wall of humanity we managed to find our way to the SkyBus Terminal and a reasonably uneventful drive to the airport. After checking my bag, we found our way to the food court for an uninspiring dinner in anticipation of boarding the flight at 7.40pm. Nuh. Flight delayed 35 minutes. Being a people watcher, this gave me a chance to view humanity in transit. Time to board and a long 1 kilometre walk to the Jetstar gates, down stairs to the tarmac, another trek across a very windy tundra to climb wet wobbly steps into the plane and finally on our way.
Landing in Sydney we ordered an ‘Uber’ to the city – “great” I thought, “we’re on the home stretch”, except the walk from the plane to the Uber pick up was almost as far as the hike at Melbourne airport. Checked into the hotel with an overwhelming desire to fall into bed – a reasonable expectation one would assume, except, the bed was so high off the floor and being height challenged, the only way I could climb into it was to take a bit of a run up and do a face plant.
After meeting our friends at Circular Quay the next day and agreeing that we had all aged and were carrying those extra kilos, but were fundamentally the same, we had a fabulous day of laughter, shared memories, catching up and suddenly forty-five years disappeared. Once again we were six, twenty something friends who had shared one of the best years of our lives.
The return journey wasn’t quite so eventful, but equally long. Train to Sydney airport, plane to Melbourne, parked on the tarmac for ages until we could disembark, down the still wobbly steps in driving wind and rain, another trudge to the baggage pickup, onto the SkyBus to Southern Cross, taxi to son and heir’s home, pick up his car and drive the normally ninety minute run up the freeway. But this was now peak hour (again) – nose to tail cars, so two and a half hours later, we arrived in Creswick, grabbed a pizza then another 10 minutes to home.
It was a great reunion, but travelling isn’t what I remember. It’s going to be a while before I venture into the wild blue yonder again, even if I do have a Myki card.
Home – no matter how humble is very sweet indeed.