Gilbert suddenly announced that we were going to have a short holiday in Sydney before setting off for Newfoundland. We were all pleased because we loved Sydney.
We were staying at 52 Wrights Road, Drummoyne. This is where we lived when we first came to Australia. It was owned by the University of Sydney and consisted of 6 flats used for housing staff in transition. It had beautiful views in all directions, including towards Sydney Harbour Bridge.Aidan reminded me that it was our 3rd stay at Wrights Road. We stayed there for a while when we moved from Wagga to Toronto.
Gilbert had a friend in Sydney. His name was Bill Newell. Bill had spent his early working life in Japan and was now Professor of Anthropology at Sydney University. He had 4 children of a similar age to ours. Liz, the eldest, became a friend of Aidan's and they corresponded, for a time, after he left Australia. Rona remembers playing with Susan who was the youngest member of the family.
I was concentrating on clothes suitable for Newfoundland, but it was mid-summer in Australia. Aidan recalls:"Mum bought a 'winter' jacket in Sydney for both myself and Gerald. They looked very Canadianesque, as they were checkered and (fake) fur lined, but there the similarity ended! Quite a style item for the Aussie winter climate, but we froze the first winter in Newfoundland."
Gilbert had a lot of warm "stuff", which he had brought out from the UK. He never threw anything away, and buying him something new usually provoked a major incident. I dreaded Gilbert's meltdowns. So I left him alone. I found a jacket for myself in some sort of synthetic material. It was a horrendous colour and probably meant for a man, but I bought it anyway because it was in a sale and very cheap. I cannot remember what I did about the girls.
The first lap of our journey took us north from Sydney to Hong Kong, and it gave us amazing glimpses of the beautiful Australian Outback. The sky was completely blue. No clouds. It was incredible to see below us vast stretches of completely uninhabited land. This was the part of the journey which I will always remember. I think it must have been the Queensland Outback, although I cannot recall the flight path of the plane.
We landed safely in Hong Kong and were delayed for two days. They put us up in a multi-storey hotel. Aidan loved Hong Kong, because it was so full of life. I found it too busy. I went shopping, but everyone seemed to know where they were going and what they wanted. It was impossible to browse without being jostled by other shoppers.A fellow guest told me that there had been a suicide at our hotel the day before. A man had thrown himself from the top storey into the square below. A horrible way to die. I still remember that story.
We entered Hong Kong on 19th December and left on the 21st., according to the stamps on my passport.
We had a long stopover at Istanbul and were allowed to get off the plane. The staff were quite unfriendly, but they allowed us past and into the airport. The children were relieved at having some exercise after many hours of sitting down.
Bride remembers, "I felt very cold, but that might have been because we had just left mid-summer Australia. There were flakes of snow flying about. It was not wet snow like you often get in England, but very fine dry snow."
Aidan thinks we also had a stopover in Frankfurt, but were not allowed to get off the plane. We were all relieved when we reached Heathrow.
We made our way to Midtown Farm, Cumwhitton and my mother saw her grandchildren for the first time in six years.
I knew we couldn't stay long as my mother and Gilbert didn't get on. Bride remarked the other day, "Grandma hated Dad."
My mother said, "Well I've bought a turkey and there's potatoes in the barn." It seemed sparce fare for Xmas day, but she gave me some money to buy extras in Carlisle. We set off on the bus and bought some fresh vegetables, a Xmas pudding and other small items.
Bride remembers, "We went into Woolworths in Carlisle and saw a display of Cadbury's Giant Dairy Milk Bars. They were enormous and Mum bought us one each for Xmas. I still remember them. They didn't have anything like that is Australia. I loved chocolate."
There were numerous disagreements between my mother and Gilbert. One crisis occurred when my mother's favourite soap opera was discovered to be opposite, "Carols from Kings". It was one of the highlights of my mother's day and she was clearly addicted to it. Gilbert, however, was a black and white thinker, who did not pick up on those sorts of subtleties. It was clear in his mind that the carols were a far more worthy thing to watch. According to Gilbert, all soap operas were rubbish.
We left on the 30th December and I promised to call in, in a year's time, on our way back to Australia.
We flew from Prestwich (Glasgow) and almost missed the plane as we went to Glasgow airport by mistake. From there we went to Gander in Newfoundland. There was no direct flight to St. John's at that time, but we caught a connecting flight after a long delay in Gander. In St. John's we went temporarily to the Holiday Inn.
The boys went out exploring. Aidan remembers, "crossing a very flat snow covered field with Gerald. When we came back and consulted a map, we found that the field in question was, in fact, Kent's Pond. Luckily the ice was quite thick that winter."
Gilbert had been given the contact number of a family in St. John's, by Sydney University. They were Rev. Charlie & Dr. Mary Preston. Mary later became our GP.
With the Preston's help we discovered a house for rent at 40 Johnson Crescent, not far from the Holiday Inn. Mary helped us settle in, in lots of practical ways. For instance, she produced some wellingtons which her children had outgrown. She said they could be worn with very thick socks. Our children had shoes which were quite unsuitable for the deep snow. It was one of the worst winters I ever experienced in Newfoundland. But we survived - somehow!
Marian Foster. March 2017.