The first day of 1997 dawned as I fought a massive hangover. We had travelled to the new home base at Seabank Caravan Park, and had rather too much fun with friends round the campfire. I crawled over my husband to get to the showers next morning, feeling the joys of camping were not as joyful that day.
Yet already the gods who seemed now and then to smile down on us, were working their magic. We had the caravan; some furniture stored in a friend’s shed, and a concrete slab poured to add a larger structure later. Plans had been made to go travelling, to be ‘Grey Nomads’. Our house sale had at last gone through and although the bank was not exactly overflowing with our cash, we had escaped the despair of a job my husband hated.
Tess our cat took days to settle, hiding under a bed for the first part then gradually going out and exploring the bush on our doorstep. We ate well and enjoyed the weather which was beautiful. I cooked most meals in an electric fry pan or wok. We walked on the small beach, which was an estuary leading out to sea. Small crabs scurried across the mud flats and the beautiful black swans and pelicans fed and called to each other. I loved the parrots in our trees and fed the magpies. Life was becoming bearable again.
Within days we were in a spin though. The caravan park owners came to us with a proposition. They had a large new three bedroom cabin they wanted to let. “Would you like to rent it for 60 dollars a week?” we nearly fell over. They didn’t want fishermen in there cleaning their catch. We sat stunned, and when we saw the place, newly carpeted and with a 20 foot lounge we were already deciding to go for it.
After telling them yes we would take it, we realized we had sold or got rid of most items of furniture, we bought back a couch we had sold to friends, and they kept the two chairs. We had no bed, so had to go and buy a double bed and mattress, no fridge…so off we went to buy the essentials we had just given away! It was crazy. Luckily we had stored the china and ornaments and the beautiful old table and dining chairs. We moved it all in within a day or so. Sometimes life can change in the blink of an eye.
Here we were almost broke, no jobs, a cabin on a caravan park yet we felt blessed. We had a big garden around us, the beach behind us two minutes away, a huge open paddock in front, and next to us a lovely old horse called Matthew who soon learned I was a soft touch, I fed him scraps over the fence.
We bought two old bikes and cycled around, we made friends with the other permanent residents on the park, listened to their stories shared their fish sometimes, and, sat spinning yarns with the men.
Deciding we should do something to earn money was next. So I went to the local hospital and asked if we could be volunteers. After an interview and a visit from a nurse we were accepted. We visited the nursing home and chatted to the lonely and isolated residents. It was a gateway to a new start for us. I wondered if I could be accepted to work with the elderly? So applied for a home help position. It had just been advertised; I was fighting some pretty serious odds here, I was nearly sixty, and did not drive. But on my side I had very good experience, had worked in a rehab hospital helping an occupational therapist, running exercise sessions and crafts, and had worked in three nursing homes since arriving in Australia. I had a bike and my husband was free to drive me to those clients in town. I was used first as a ‘fill in’ for those on holiday. I gained two clients on the caravan park and a few who lived in the next small town. I was working again.
The other change came as we were asked to join the Lions Club. We suddenly had a host of friends, and enjoyed the activities we got involved in. Small towns are generous places, helping others is more a way of life, than an obligation. At Easter which is a huge fundraiser, we were manning the stalls and cooking hamburgers and the smell on our clothes and hair lasted forever. Yet we enjoyed it.
My husband started driving a bus for the hospital, and with that and Lions, and the rural life, we were content.