Every marriage has its ups and downs and, in fifty-five years, ours has been no exception! But the absolute pits came in late 1963.
We had been enjoying the past five years, happily living, working and having a couple of kids in New Zealand, when our parents decided they wanted us to come home. This was something we really didn’t want to happen.
We had a very nice house in Auckland, I had a good job and was also beginning to build up a worthwhile little freelance business of my own, and we had made a lot of good friends there.
However, our parents, (Jacqui’s especially), put up numerous great arguments on why we should return to England, not the least being a directorship for me in Jacqui’s Dad’s building business. And so, we eventually weakened, much against our true feelings and put things into motion!
That meant, at short notice, going through the horrors of selling our home, packing as much of our furniture as we could afford, to take with us, and booking tickets on the ‘Oriana’.
We had no money until the sale of the house was completed and this hadn’t happened until three days before the ship was due to sail! By then we were getting daily phone calls from the shipping line. I just managed to hold them off until part of the money for the house turned up and we boarded a couple of days later, completely fraught and exhausted.
The ‘Oriana’ sailed at about eleven o’clock that night and we stood on the deck, a depressed and unhappy couple watching what had become our homeland slide slowly and inexorably away from us, never to be seen again. I really don’t remember very much of that trip, except that it was nothing like the happy-go-lucky journey to New Zealand just a few short years ago.
We had very little money, because the rest of the funds from the sale of the house hadn’t come through yet, forcing me to borrow eighty pounds from our solicitor. We had two children with us, both under five, and a third well on the way and we had no idea what was actually going to happen once we got back to England.
Thirty days later we arrived at Southampton, to a grey morning and a light drizzle of cold rain, both of us feeling more and more depressed with every splash that landed on us.
Jacqui’s parents were meeting us off the ship, and at least that gave us a moment or two of pleasure, but then we started the drive to Bristol and we were both horrified at what we were seeing.
After the bright colours, big gardens and clear blue skies of Auckland, everything about Southampton was grey! The sky was grey, and heavy with a promise of more rain, the roads were grey, and the houses were grey. Even the few trees growing in some tiny front gardens were grey from accumulated dirt. And those front gardens, you could literally stand at the front gate and touch the front door, they were so small!
Jacqui and I were both thinking, although we didn’t know it at the time, “What the hell have we done, we’ve left paradise to come to this!”
We hid it as much as we could from the parents, but both of us were acutely depressed for some time after we arrived in England. A depression made worse by the knowledge that we couldn’t afford to turn around and rush back ‘home.’ This was compounded by my job with Jacqui’s Dad falling through because he went bankrupt just after our arrival, and finally the death of my father from cancer within a month, something we’d had no idea he was suffering.
We got over the depression eventually and made things work for us again. But, nothing in England could really replace what we had known, on the other side of the world, which is why we are here, in Australia this time, very happy to be south of the equator again!
Have you been through terrible moments and come out the other side happier, stronger and more resolved?