It’s a small old world and some of it momentarily centred on pretty little Manningtree Railway Station. I begin by casting my mind back to my very first blog, “How Much can a Koala Bear”. I remember writing about how we bumped into an old friend, Kiloran, from the Cotswolds in England whilst riding on a tram in Melbourne. The Kiwi and I had flown into Melbourne the day before and feeling a little jaded we decided to take a lazy tram ride to Toorak where I once lived in my early twenties. We were in Australia for a rekey of our possible new home. Our mutual surprise in seeing each other was heightened when Kiloran said how well she knew the Victorian district of the Southern Grampians where we had decided to settle. She had several friends who lived there and gave me some of their phone numbers. A year later when we arrived in Dunkeld and not wishing to be a “Norma No-Mates” I bravely dialled one of the numbers and that person was Claire M. She said how nice it was to hear another English voice as she was also a Pom and coincidentally came from Norfolk and not a million miles from where I come from in Suffolk.
During the past two years Claire and I have shared many reminiscences of our similar upbringings in East Anglia, the places we knew and we wondered if we’d ever been in the same place at the same time. We promised each other that if ever we were back home in England at the same time we would meet and show each other our worlds.
When in England Claire travels by train from London’s Liverpool Street Station to Diss near where her father lives in Norfolk. This same train line passes through Manningtree Station which is my home stop where I get off. And so it was a couple of weeks ago I found myself waiting on the platform to meet Claire who was en route for Norfolk. Whenever I’m there I usually bump into someone I know and this time it was Sonia S-B from the next door village of Stutton. It was nice to pass the time with her and I told her I was there to meet a friend from Australia but I didn’t get the chance to tell her who I was meeting as Sonia left on her London bound train.
Claire’s train arrived and it was completely surreal seeing someone who I only knew so many thousands of miles away in Australia but who was shortly to be having a cup of tea at our family kitchen table in Suffolk. We spent a fabulous day together, lunching whilst looking out over the Orwell Estuary at the Butt and Oyster in Pin Mill and later walking along the beach at Holbrook Creek.
The sun shone, glistening on the sparkling water and we could hear the call of the oyster catchers scurrying about at the waters edge. Claire picked up a pebble off the beach and gave it to me to keep in my pocket to always remind me of home.
It’s a beautiful little stone, very tactile having an indentation just the same size of my thumb and it now lives in my coat pocket. The Kiwi also often gives me stones from special places so I’m quite weighed down now!
Later as I waved Claire goodbye at Manningtree Station, Sonia was getting off the same train and I gave her a wave but Claire didn’t see her… oh gosh this gets weirder…
Now I’m back in Australia Claire and I have been texting each other and this morning she told me that she’d been to see a childhood friend’s mother in Norfolk (who coincidentally is a neighbour of my cousin Annabel). This childhood friend just happens to be Sonia S-B from Stutton! Claire lost touch with her when she moved to Australia so if anyone out there knows Sonia’s email address it would be fun to send her this blog to remind her of Claire M from Dunkeld, Australia.
I had travelled home to England in a bit of a rush. In the early hours of Friday 22nd March something made me wake up and as I awoke my phone rang and it was my mother. She told me my father was gravely ill and the doctor had advised her to gather the family. I sprang into action and spent the rest of the night booking a flight home and started to throw things into a suitcase to leave at ten o’clock that night. Later I went into work in a bit of a daze but everyone was very supportive and understanding of my need to go, nevertheless, I felt bad about leaving them in the lurch.
I was desperate to get home and to be there in time to share a G&T with my Dad and thankfully we did just that when I arrived 27 hours later. In fact we shared several more G&T’s and after a few days we even ended up finishing the bottle! Maybe this was the tonic (‘scuse the pun) Dad had needed and he gradually stabilised. He has the benefit of 24/7 care has been able to remain at home but he’s not able to do much for himself but despite all, is stoical, maintains his wicked sense of humour and still very much rules the roost!
Not being one to twiddle my thumbs I busied myself painting and decorating bits around our dear old family home and I think surprised the other members of the household with my abilities! I also managed to catch up with a few friends and spent a manic five days in a social whirl which was wonderful. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed them all because it’s not until you see much loved old friends and the beautiful English spring countryside that it really sinks home.
Saying goodbye to Dad was hard and that’s all I can say about it. I was grateful that the Kiwi was waiting for me and so were my golden girls. As I came up our drive our Angus (now clinically obese) cow, Friday and our eight sheep were waiting for me by the gate which was so heartening to see. Our puppy Prue has grown so much in the three short weeks I was away and she now joins Margot and Daphne on our early morning walks and life has pretty much returned to normal. The weather has cooled down a little and we’re contemplating lighting our first fire tonight but the landscape is still summer scorched and we could badly do with some rain.