Tuesday, March 20, 2018

TO AUSTRALIA

   
TO AUSTRALIA

One evening, as I was on mi way home from riding mi bike around with a couple of pals, I met   the next door neighbor.  As I was leaning mi bike against the wall he said,
"G'day. How are ya? My names Bruce Whipp. We've lived next door to each other for months and I've never really met ya."
"Hello. My names Richard. Where are you from? You can't be from around these parts 'cause you don't speak like everyone else does."
     Mr. Whipp had a good chuckle to himself. Ya noticed it did ya mate. After all these years of living in Yorkshire and being married to a Yorkshire girl, I still can't get rid of mi Aussie accent."
"What do you mean, 'Aussie'?"
"I come from Australia. Anyone who comes from there is called  an 'Aussie'. It's sort of a nickname."
What's it like, living in Australia?", I asked.
"She's a beaut' place mate. Gods' own country it is. In fact, me and the family are going back home in a couple of months. I had a job offer from a firm I used to work for before I came to England."

     As soon as I heard the word 'Australia', it was like magic. It went into my brain and refused to leave.
"I'm going to live in Australia!", I said to Mr. Whipp, before we parted company.
"Are ya mate? Well good on ya.", he said. "If you ever do, I'll leave ya my phone number and address. You can look me up and I'll drive ya around Sydney on a guided tour. Got to go now. I'll see ya's later."

     As soon as I got inside the house, I said to Iris and mi step-dad, who were sat in their usual chairs.
"Guess what mum!"
"Now what?", she said without looking up from her knitting.
"I'm off to live in Australia as soon as I leave school."
"Where did you get that hair-brained scheme from?", she said.
"I just talked to Mr. Whipp next door. He was telling me what a great place it was so I decided that's where I'm going."
"Don't be so bloody daft Richard. Australia is thousands of miles away and you're only 14. You can forget all about Australia. You're not going anywhere. When you leave school at 15, you're going  to start that plumbing job you put your name down for."
"I don't want to be a plumber. I want to go to Australia and work on a farm. You can either help me to do that or not but if you don't help me, as soon as I'm 18 you can't stop me! When that day comes, I'll walk out of here and never come back. So, it's up to you what you decide but my mind's made up. I'm going to Australia whether you like it or not!"
"Don't you talk to me like that lad. Don't forget that I'm your mother. You'll do what I say, not what you want."
"Not this time.", I said as I started to walk up the stairs to bed. As soon as I got to the stairs to the first landing, I yelled back downstairs.
"Hey mum.", I said.
"What now.", she yelled back.
"I'll be in Australia before you know it. That means you'll only have one more Xmas to put up with me, then you and him can live a life of peace. I'll be long gone, out of your life. The only thing that will remain of me will be an old memory. You'll get what you want and I'll get what I want.  So there! Good night everyone."

     That night, as I lay in bed, all I could think about as I stared through the small attic skylight was Kangaroos, Aborigines and wide open spaces.
     The following weeks I kept up a constant nagging campaign at mi mother, just like she did to mi dad, until I got mi own way.

     Mi mum finally gave her consent for me to go to Australia with the Big Brother Movement. I was now in the middle of sending forms back and forth to London. The whole process took almost a year to complete.
     Bruce Whipp, the Australian who used to live next door to us had already packed in his job and taken his Yorkshire wife and three small children back to Australia. Before he left, he said to me that as soon as he had an address and phone number he would send it on to me. Being true to his word, I had his letter in my top drawer in mi bedroom.

     I told some of friends at school,
"I'll be leaving school earlier than you lot. I've been accepted in a program that takes boys under 18 to Australia and finds work for them on farms, out in the Bush.
"You're only joking with us Dick Lad.", they'd say. "You won't be leaving school before we do. You'll be stuck in Sowerby Bridge for the rest of your life, the same as us."
All right.", I said. "I won't say another word about it. You're right and I'm wrong. I'll be leaving school the same day as you lot."
"That's better Dick. It's unheard of to leave school before your time and whoever heard of a 15 year old boy going to Australia on his own! We got to hand it to you Dick, you sure can spin a good yarn. Where do you think them up from?"

     One of the forms from the Big Brother Movement stated that I must have two of each of the items they listed which eventually turned into two large suitcases of clothes. Along with a lot of other items, the list included two pairs of hobnail work boots, shirts, socks, work pants, sweaters, coats, undershirts and on and on it went.

     The days were flying past really fast now and I could see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. All the boyhood toys that had given me some comfort, over the years, had to be sold off and before long all that was left was clothes. 

     A week before I was due to leave home I had the sad task of going to mi dads' house to say goodbye to him.
     When I arrived at 36 Jubilee Terrace, I did what I always did, of looking through his window at him before I knocked. There he was, in the same old chair, with his old pint pot of tea balanced on the arm of the chair and the racing page of his newspaper was opened up in front of him. The races were being called on the TV. His legs were stretched out in front of him as he warmed his feet in front of the coal fire. 
     I tapped on his window and he jumped a good 6 inches out of his chair and then made his way to the door.
"You frightened the bloody life out of me.", he said as he opened the old blue door.
"Hello dad.". I said as I made mi way down the same passage where I'd walked hundreds of times before. 

     The old Grandfather clock was still ticking away at the end of the hallway. 
"What the bloody hell have you been up to lad?", he said to me as we made ourselves comfortable in his warm and cosy front room.
"Oh, I've been packing up mi suitcases ready for going to Australia next Saturday."
     I could tell he did not want to talk about me leaving 'cause he knew deep down in his heart that I would not be visiting him for a long time to come.
"How's ya sisters getting on? They never come to visit old Daddy Swindells. I suppose your mother and her new fancy man have brainwashed them into staying away from their old dad!"
"They'll probably come and visit you when they get a bit older."
     They were much younger then me in many ways when we all left here so they were more influenced than I was.

"I'm leaving for Australia next Saturday morning dad so I won't be coming round for a while anymore."
"Ah, you aren't going anywhere lad. You'll be here next Saturday afternoon and if not, you'll be here the following week."
     I could tell by the tone of his voice that he did not want to talk about my leaving home so for about an hour I just sat in his silence and watched him read his paper for the last time. At 5 O'clock, I knew it was my time to leave. I said to mi dad,
"All right dad, I'm going now."
"All right, I'll walk you to the door."

     When we got to his front door, I stepped over the threshold and stood on the top step. It was really hard to turn around and look at him 'cause I wasn't sure if I would ever see him again. As I turned and looked into his eyes, my heart felt like twice its size and a large, aching lump swelled up in my throat. Burning tears flooded my eyes which made it hard to see mi dads' face. I wiped them away as best I could on the sleeve of mi jacket. 

     Fifteen years of knowing mi dad flashed across my mind. Motor bikes, farm yards and Moors shot past at incredible speed. The emotions were now working overtime as we stood there in silence. So many things that were never said to each other and now it was too late.
"Look after yourself dad.", I managed to say. "I'll write to you from the boat and let you know what it's like."
"Neither me nor mi dad were much good at things like this. All of a sudden, mi dads' eyes flooded with tears. I had never seen him cry ever.  It was the first time in my life that I believed he really loved me. It's a shame that scene had not played itself out, a few years earlier. 

     I could no longer stand the pain of seeing mi dad cry so all I could say was,
"See ya later dad."
"I'y.", he said through a choked-up voice.
     I turned and made mi way down his steps. The old motor bike was still parked behind the small privet fence at the bottom of his garden. When I reached the front street, I turned and waved to him. He waved back at me, then went back inside his house and closed the old blue door.

     The tears were now flowing at full speed and along with them was a low aching moan which came from the depth of my being. The moan was a very deep, primal sound. It was the sort of sound one would hear come out of an old dog who had just lost his master. 

     By the time mi double-decker bus arrived, the moaning had stopped but the tears still kept trickling out of mi eyes. I jumped on the bus and ran upstairs before the driver could get started. 
The upstairs of the bus was quite empty. I sat down on a left-hand seat so I could get a last glimpse of mi dads' house, as the bus passed between a break in the row of houses in front of mi dads' row.      
     That last glimpse of mi dads' house was the last time I'd see mi dad for about seven years, although at that time I was not to know that.

    The bus conductor was a very sweet and considerate man. He had noticed how upset I was when I got on his bus. He took his time coming upstairs for the fare. When he eventually came upstairs, I said to him, 
"Sowerby Bridge please."
     After I'd given him the money, he punched out mi ticket and said to me,
"Are you alright lad?"
"I'y.", I said. "I'm going to Australia next Saturday. I just came to say goodbye to mi dad."
"Oh that's nice.", he said. "Soon as you get to Australia, you'll be too busy to get upset."


     I've tried many times, in my life to please everyone but it never worked out for me. Going to Australia is the best thing all around. Who knows what destiny has in store for me.

     As I walked home from school for the last time, I was really pleased with myself. No more detention, no more hard floggings with the head-masters' cane, no more inhuman school teachers trying to force their will on me. Ten years of my life had been spent at school and as far as I was concerned it had been nothing but a bad nightmare that I had just woken up from.

     The next morning, after a bit of breakfast, I said goodbye to mi two sisters. It was not as easy as I thought it would be.

     The taxi that mi mum had hired to take us to the train station had arrived, on time, to take us to where I would begin the first leg of a really long journey.
     At Southampton, I got the first glimpse of the biggest ship I had ever seen in my life. The one that would take me into the unknown.

     On board the ship, waiting for the departure of the Aurelia, I waved goodbye to mi mum mi stepdad as they stood on the dock with the other visitors.
'Oh shit! I thought as I watched mi mother start to cry really hard, 'What have you gone and done Richard? You've really done it this time, haven't you. There's no turning back now!'

     I stood against the ships railing, waving and crying until mi mother and mi stepdad were no longer in sight.

I was 15 years old then. At that point, I knew there would be no more childhood for me. I was now on mi own. Destiny had set the compass of my life in the direction of Sydney Australia!






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