Chapter Twelve: 1993 ~~ Overseas and Misadventure
‘If you pull the strings too tight they’ll break, and if you don’t pull them tight enough they won’t play’ … The Little Buddha
Early this year, my work offered mass voluntary retrenchment packages to reduce company costs. I readily raised my hand when the Chief Executive Officer discussed the proposal, asking us to consider it carefully. The offer was available to a percentage of staff on a first-come-first-served basis and I was determined to be one of the first served, overjoyed at this unexpected release and propulsion into the future. Stephen and I had privately voiced an increasing desire to leave, but we needed motivating and the ‘early retirement’ offer was our answer! I received a tidy payout—one that looked overweight beside my formerly financially minuscule name!
Diary, April 20: I am sitting in the lounge room at our ‘Balgowlah’ home (we moved) with Cory, Luke and their beautiful mum, Sky! I am now employed at the ‘Levita Group’ (Telemarketing). I left ‘State Super’ because I was very lucky to receive the voluntary retrenchment package—just the thing Cory and I needed to get our butts into gear. We are planning to leave in August. We’re off to Europe/London, where we plan to obtain employment for a time, buy a kombi van, and travel around at our own leisure. Pretty exciting, we’ll be there before we know it. Life is just beginning! And, what a perfect partner I have to share it with! I’m very lucky and happy! Everything is going well for my whole family and me. Thank you God! Can’t wait to see The World and its People! The saddest thing about leaving State Super is leaving my Beautiful and favourite friend Stephen! Sharee will be sadly missed also, a true friend with a loving heart—oh we had fun at those all-night State Super Happy Hours! Lastly, I will miss Mr Larry Engdahl—my dear work colleague who is the same age as Dad, and who gave me so much time, wisdom, patience, and laughter, not to mention warmth and our unspoken Love during our days at work! State Super was a great experience and I will always be grateful!
It was on this day, or one near it, that Dad phoned me with exciting financial news. An investment had proved profitable for him! I was to keep this a secret until Julie’s birthday, the following week, when he would share it with Louise and Julie as it involved all his children receiving a substantial sum of money. Size enough to have a holiday of a lifetime, Dad said!
Louise and Julie were elated when Dad told them the news at lunch, but Dad was not overly happy, as he had planned to buy Julie a car for her birthday. She had always jokingly asked for one when she was younger, and he wanted to make it true, as well as give each of us a cheque of likewise proportions, with more to follow. Such a manifestation didn’t transpire, owing to difficulties at the other end. So, Dad deferred this unbelievable stroke of good fortune until next week. No problem we can wait, we sincerely stated!
I didn’t need to go back to work after lunch, so I had more drinks and a one-to-one discussion with Dad at the Waratah Hotel where Cory worked. The previous week, Dad needed a large sum of money for Hope, the woman involved in his investment. I reminded him of my large payout from State Super, saying he should have asked me for the money, and must if he ever needed it again. He had forgotten, and was grateful, but dismissed the idea because the ‘Money was coming through’.
The following week, Dad accepted my offer because Hope needed money again. Dad had known Hope for years, and in that time, had grown to trust her. I met her when I was about eight and she seemed to be a nice person, so I gave the money without thought.
During all this, the biggest exhilaration for Cory and me was our approaching overseas adventure. We were sad to be leaving Luke and Rob. We’d shared many hours in our large hip house doing what we loved—playing cards, listening to music and sharing good cheer. The four of us were a little family. Yet, our dream was overseas, and we were extra excited at the thought of meeting up with Julie and friends in London!
In anticipation and expectation of recording travelling experiences, I purchased a hard-covered black diary. On the inside cover, I inserted photographs of my family and friends, for reminiscing when home was missed.
Cory and I had saved enough money for one-way tickets to England via Bangkok where we’d pre-booked two nights in a good hotel. We had a MasterCard each and a little spending money to tide us over before the money promised to Dad came through.
Julie departed ten days before us. Following is the first entry of my diary.
Friday 6th August—it’s happening! Cory and I are at Louise and Ian’s ready to see Julie off at the airport! She is very excited, but would like one more night, it’s happened so quickly! Cory and I had vaccination shots today and we have sore bottoms. We’re slowly getting organised, but there’s so much to do and not a lot of time. Cory and I fly to Perth on Monday 16th, where we’ll stay with Sky and Paddy until 23rd August, and then onto Thailand for two weeks! In London, we will meet up with Julie, Paul, and Stephen too.
Later: –How am I going to say goodbye to my Beautiful family? It was very sad saying goodbye to Julie! Even though I’ll meet her again in three-four weeks, seeing her leave was extremely emotional and so you can just imagine how incredibly SAD I’ll feel. Goodbyes are not my strong point and I’m going away for almost two years! I can’t think about it, it’s TOO much; anyway, I have a week to prepare for the inevitable!
Monday 16th: My Turn!
The day is here—I can’t believe it! It’s arrived so quickly, I haven’t had a chance to write about our farewells—but as you can imagine they’ve been emotional and memorable. Now, we’re off, up in the air, heading for Perth where Sky and Paddy will be waiting!’
Diary entry: Dad at the Airport.
‘Suzie, Cory, Enjoy Life to the Full. You will be in my thoughts all the way. Love Forever Dad xxxx’
Being in his thoughts was an understatement …
We’re here!! The plane trip was good, felt a bit sick—but that may have had something to do with the champagne, the bourbon, the plane food, and taking malaria tablets at ten thousand feet! Add the overload of emotion before the flight, wow, this is going to be one huge trip, and we’re only in Perth! Sky and Paddy met us, which was lovely.
Perth in a week: Fremantle Gaol, duty-free shopping, restaurants, farewells to Cory’s beautiful family, and celebrations, etc.
Last day: We’re all set to go! We are now cooking the traditional Aussie farewell BBQ, the next time writing: I’ll be on the plane!
I share our Thailand experiences in diary format, written at a restaurant on Lumai Beach, Koh Samui!
August 23rd Destination Bangkok
We’re In the Air! Incredible! The first leg of our trip is underway and our dream is coming true… When the plane lands, Cory and I are ready for whatever Bangkok has to offer, play with our duty-free goodies, walk the streets, and totally give in to it!
As imagined, I’ve seen nothing like it! When we stepped off the plane—the humidity and smell hit us. The air smelt like a strange mixture of butter and coconut. Customs procedure was quick, and it was raining when we found our lift to the Park Hotel, (which was refreshing!). The traffic was so heavy the 30 km ride to the City took over two hours. Everyone was piled in the back of cars like sheep, poor things. When they spotted us, they waved and said, ‘Welcome’. Very, very friendly people indeed!
Our hotel is very nice and the hospitality great. Our room has all the conveniences, small, but enough for us! We didn’t unpack, just headed straight downstairs for dinner.
We ate a gorgeous Thai meal at a very cheap price—unreal! After dinner, we adventured out. Cory was careful, wanting to stay aware in case we were ripped off. I on the other hand, sensed the air immediately, and knew we had no worries! Cory finally relaxed when we sat down in the window of an established coffee shop, to watch the population of Thailand flow by. The locals give unbeatable service; they cannot do enough and are genuinely friendly!
The saddest aspects of the sights to see are the limbless derelicts, unguarded infants, and streetwalkers all jostling for money! Initially, Cory wouldn’t let me weaken, refusing to support their parents’ social dilemma. He does have a point; it’s just that they’re so very, very poor.
We stayed out until 6.30 am and slept to 2.30 pm, which was good considering it was so stinkin’ hot here. Unbelievable—bring on the night.
Tuesday night Cory and I headed for ‘Patpong Road’, the infamous Red-light district of Bangkok. The first bar to win our presence was called ‘Susie Wong’ and the moment we sat down, three ‘ladies’ were upon us, smiling, and giving us compliments. They appeared sweet and not at all sleazy, just going through the motions. Soon, dancers surrounded us—who were very inquisitive and generous giving us four Roses, and a cigarette packet made to resemble a little bouquet. So sweet! To top it off they had photographs taken with us! The sweet extravaganza was amazing, but Cory and I eventually bid warm goodbyes, and departed before being overwhelmed.
We’d only just stepped out of Susie Wong’s when a Thai man ran to us, and used bizarre hand movements, suggesting we see a ‘show’. Why not, (we were up for anything), and followed him to a nearby street, up stairs—with walls adorned with pornographic pictures, and into a dark room emitting trendy, loud, music. Half clad and naked women danced on a stage doing strange, incredible things. From a safe distance, we saw one lady pop ping pong balls from her private parts, another dart balloons, one honk a horn, and another puff cigarette smoke, all to a loud choruses of cheers from men in the darkened room. Other entertainers stood, barely dancing, lifeless, and zombie-like. I missed the cigarette trick because I was arguing with a big, plump woman. She demanded 2000B (120 Australian dollars) to watch the performance! (The ‘Whisky’ and cokes were 100B as well.) Of course, we didn’t pay. We didn’t know what we were coming to, and left after paying for our drinks. We’d gained an overall picture (amazing, and sad).
Situated across the road was a brightly lit bar with women dancing in bikinis, minus the funny business. Cory bought us a whisky (it’s all they drink here) and we watched the ‘entertainment’. We admired one of the dancing girls, as she was full of life and fun! After the show, she came to us pointing upstairs, non-verbally asking if we’d like to go upstairs for a dance. My initial thought was that she was hoodwinking me to capture Cory. However, as she seemed GENUINELY friendly I trusted her. This time, we were rewarded with a cool nightclub, great music, and people dancing having fun! No funny business anywhere! It was fantastic, until the music mellowed, signalling the time to leave. The night was cool, and devoid of traffic, which made for a wonderful journey home in a ‘tuk tuk’ (three-wheel motorbike taxi)!
Wednesday - we visited the glittering purple and gold ‘Grand Palace’. It’s over 200 years old, and the brilliant architecture remains in immaculate condition. A spiritual experience!
Thursday, we caught a 56-seat flight to ‘Koh Samui’, which took an hour. Although initially bumpy, the ride smoothed out. The scenery was gorgeous; the food was not. Koh Samui Airport was charming, being outdoors, and little. We met a couple on their honeymoon, and hired bungalows on Lumai beach. The bungalows were small, including a shower and toilet that left a lot to be desired, but we didn’t care (the first night anyway). In the evening, we ate magic mushroom omelettes at the Magic Restaurant—overlooking the beach, eating, drinking, and enjoying! Almost immediately, everything seemed more glorious: the sky, stars, the moon, the beach, and the palms … everything! Following our omelettes, we met Ludoure and Frederick (gloriously gorgeous French brothers) on the beach… and I struggled to remember my French lessons.
We woke Friday morning to waves lapping the beach and nearby Thai voices calling: ‘Would you like a massage, manicure, sarongs, t-shirts, coke, water’ anything!
Half awake, we moved to the ‘Magic Resort’ bungalow (contained with a normal toilet above the ground and a great shower), and planned to hire mo-peds! On the way, (a very short walk) I sprained my ankle outside the French guys’ bungalow whilst excitedly calling ‘Salute’ to them! Naturally, then, a mo-ped (postie motorbike) should have been avoided, but I got one anyway. We rode east and south along the island roads, finishing at Wakkii Beach, where we had a yummy lunch, a swim, and proceeded home! Me, with all my confidence, sped beside Cory (80 kilometres an hour–max speed). We had a ball, BUT, on slowly crossing a wooden bridge, I felt threatened by a big black van coming up behind. I looked behind me and tried to hurry, but my bike skidded on a crack in the bridge and I fell! Result: A badly scraped elbow, leg, awful bruises, and more pain on my swollen ankle—aren’t I clever! Back in the saddle, despite missing our turn-off, and riding on a damaged bike, I made it home in one piece. My wonderful doctor (Cory) fixed me up as best he could! Hours later, the annual Full Moon Festival commenced on Lumai Beach, and Cory helped me hobble to the party, bandaged, and limping! All we could do was rest on the beach, observing the shows and everyone else dancing.
A second and final annual Full Moon party took place the next night—Saturday night, and I enjoyed this one! Not Cory though, he became sick after eating magic mushroom soup, and stayed with the honeymooners at a quieter location of the party, while I went exploring with Ludoure and Frederick in the thick of it further down the beach, while I went exploring with Ludoure and Frederick. (The three of us had eaten the magic omelettes for dinner.) We had a great time! The moon was so full and incredibly large. So near to us, I thought I could reach out and touch it… Feeling as if we were in an entirely different world, it was extra fun communicating, especially with Ludoure, as he knew a bit (un peu) of English. Numerous stalls and areas played loud music; music was everywhere, and it was wonderful translating a few words into French.
Later…Cory wanted to go back to our bungalow, I didn’t, and he didn’t mind me staying out with Ludoure and Frederick—Bless him! We partied for two hours, and then sat on our end of Lumai Beach listening to Bob Marley on the boys’ tape recorder. It was wonderful, especially because we could understand each other, to some degree. Talk and good feeling—I loved it!
I was put to a universal test concerning the exceedingly good-looking Ludoure. We had an instant rapport when Cory introduced us on our first night, hoping my verbal French skills would locate marijuana, and an attraction grew between us during our humorous efforts to relate. However, my commitment to Cory was of greater value than moving closer for a stolen kiss. I even avoided a goodbye kiss from Ludoure on my cheek. This was hard. Deep down, I wanted to kiss him so much, but my sleeping Cory couldn’t be deceived, nor his precious trust trampled on! I’m glad I passed this test, but come to regret that missed opportunity in the near future. At that point, Cory was unconsciously teaching me the beauty of trust!
The next day, we hired proper motorbikes and Cory doubled me, this time! Reckless and wonderful, we zoomed north to visit the Big Buddha. The Buddha was grand, but I wasn’t appropriately dressed for Him (ripped shorts, singlet top). He received me anyway (had no choice). After the Buddha, we journeyed by motorbike and then on foot to a waterfall (disappointing—no water falling)! We zoomed around the rest of the island and finally drove our hot machine home. Dinner was at a lovely Italian/Thai restaurant with the honeymooners, and later we played cards in their bungalow, next to ours.
On Monday, Cory and I lazed on the beach, and dined at an Islamic restaurant with the honeymooners. Afterwards, we went to the ‘Mixed Bar’. Ludoure and Frederick turned up—we hung out, and later sat on the beach absorbing the beautiful night and energy.
On Tuesday, Cory and I hired a motorbike and continued to explore the island! It was Beautiful because we were on our own and could do whatever we wanted. I loved it so much. We enjoyed yummy tuna and mayonnaise sandwiches, hot chips, and lazed under the sun on a beach. Very sore bums from the bikes, but that didn’t matter!
Wednesday, we stayed on the beach soaking up lovely sunrays, before being covered up in freezing cold London. In the evening, Cory and I adventured to Koh-Pha-ngan for another Full Moon Party! We met beautiful Thai gay guys—Dao, Aui, and Odd. Dao arranged our ride to the nearby island in his friend’s speedboat and made sure we had the Best night possible! We danced all night and became special friends overnight. They’re like our Sydney Boys, but slightly shy (especially Aui), which made it even more special when they opened up. Dancing on the beach was awesome, especially when the sun rose over the ocean!
On our second last night: Dao, Aui, and Odd picked us up to go to the Green Manger and the Reggae Club. It was fantastic…we spent the night dancing and partying again. These guys have made our Thailand holiday very special. Aui gave Cory and me his necklace so he would be with us wherever we went. He said, ‘My heart is in these stones’—this man is angelic! After the Reggae Club, we went to the Doors Club, and then to the Country Pub. We arrived home about 5.30 am after a unique night, and woke to a Beautiful Blue Sunny day. Not wishing to waste our last full day, we walked to the beach at 11.30 am and rested amongst it.
The last evening we partied more. We had intended to relax on our final night but ‘the guys talked us into going to the Reggae Club again and ‘Gim’, who I haven’t mentioned, wouldn’t take no and is too Beautiful too resist. She is such an inspiration, a party-animal, sweet and very genuine’. (Gim is a Thai girl who we met through Dao, Odd, and Aui. In order to look after her and family, she provides her body to male services, stating, ‘It doesn’t change who I am or what’s inside of me’. She touched our hearts, and is the motivating reason I sponsor a Thai girl in the future.) … ‘Another great night was had! The Reggae Club was pumping like our Sydney dance parties when they were cool. Sadly, Cory and I couldn’t have a late night (scheduled to leave for the airport at 11.30 am!) But, we had a Good one, which we’ll never forget. In the Samui van, Dao and Aui kindly drove us to the airport. It was very sad saying goodbye to the guys, I cried—couldn’t help it, my heart hurt.
Bangkok was as hectic as we left it, but we still loved it (for short periods). The afternoon encompassed last minute shopping for Mum, Louise, Ian, and the girls, and back to the Park Hotel to organise bags (which we did in the hotel foyer) and meet our taxi. The airport was astounding—people everywhere, but we managed to do everything and board just on time at 11.45 pm.
The flight has been good, (met an Indian woman from Delhi), and we are about to land in London! I can see the landscapes—beautiful as imagined! Seems like I’ve been here before. We’re descending quickly; I’m off to enjoy the trip while it lasts! Can’t wait to see Julie, Paul, and Stephen in LONDON! Bye, Bye!
* * *
Cory and I emerged from the plane at about 7 am after a 14 hour flight, weary and excited. We moved slowly in line following other passengers, because Cory was carrying the Indian woman’s heavy bag, who’d been sitting beside us from Delhi, and we loved having a little piece of India near us.
At the Customs counter, I had trouble trying to get into the country. The Customs Officer demanded to know how much money I had in my bank account, because I didn’t have a return ticket out. I had about $500 dollars on MasterCard and told him more would be in it as soon as tomorrow, thousands more even, but he wasn’t satisfied, giving me the stiff upper lip. Almost in tears, exasperated and worried I wouldn’t be allowed entry, I said, ‘All I want to do is have a holiday in your country like you guys do in ours’. Statement worked, he let me through, and I walked to Cory who’d been patiently waiting, easily getting through with his EC passport—being born in Ireland.
We waited fruitlessly for an hour for Julie at the airport and asked for directions to Shepherd’s Bush, the suburb where she was staying at our friend Clinton’s house. One director didn’t even have Shepherd’s Bush on his map, but another was slightly familiar and indicated which line we needed.
After a 40-minute tube ride with England’s green landscape and stations fleeting by our window, we began walking along Shepherd’s Bush High Street, on an old tarmac walkway glistening its sparkles as the sun beamed warmly on our backs. I sensed the chill in the air behind the sunrays, and knew I was in for weather as I’d never felt it before. Two minutes later, a black woman with a funky hairdo spiking in all directions, stopped Cory in his tracks, telling him to be very careful carrying our video camera over his shoulder. This is a dangerous area, she said, thieves could be lurking on every corner. We hadn’t sensed this vibe—people seemed cool and easy, especially the black guys we’d spotted, but we’d been walking in the wrong direction, so she righted us, and we turned and walked towards the sun, stopping at the last pub on the corner opposite a park, green and lush with oak, birch and elm trees.
The classy Moon n’ Six Pence, with planter boxes overflowing with flowers bordering the outside and door tops, was our first haven and taste of England. The patrons seemed like typical pub goers, until they opened their mouth. So well spoken and crystal clear. We said our hellos, ate lunch, and periodically rang Julie until she answered. She couldn’t believe we were just round the corner, thinking we were still in Thailand. I’d spoken to Dad from Koh Samui and had asked him to let Julie know when we’d be arriving. But he obviously had far too much on his mind to remember.
Before long, we spotted Julie and Justine (a fun-loving dance party friend), coming down the road opposite the park. The sight of Julie moved me, as did embracing her when she walked through the door. Here we were, together, in a different country on the other side of the world. We had a celebration drink and caught up on travel stories—Julie had just returned from Greece. From there, we trudged with our backpacks up to the Mailcoach Inn, our home for the night. Clinton (another friend from dance parties), Justine, Julie, Cory, and I, had English baked dinners at the Inn, drank a few beverages, had a few laughs, and accustomed ourselves to being in the Northern Hemisphere before we parted company.
I had my usual fruit breakfast in the morning, as per the Fit for Life book recommendations—designed for warmer climates, then met up with Stephen, who had returned home to England indefinitely. It was a dream come true seeing him in his homeland! He stayed with us as we settled into our new little room with Julie and Juzzi in an old four level manor house. Our room had two single beds—one against a wall and the other under a large window. It also contained a kitchen sink, stove, small wardrobe, and enough floor space in the middle to fit Cory and me in our duck down sleeping mattresses. The large window was the width of the room and the best feature in the place, its view of the back of very old buildings etched London’s sky, sometimes orange at night. Our abode was on Linden Gardens, a leafy cul-de-sac in Notting Hill Gate in the heart of Notting Hill, moments away from cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, and cinemas. This place was about money, we didn’t know quite how much at that stage.
Stephen accompanied us to Kensington Palace in the next suburb, which we found after a lengthy walk through Kensington Gardens. The sun was shining in intervals between greying clouds, whipping up the wind as we walked through formal avenues of magnificent trees, decorative flower beds, and sat beside a pond seeing a peak of at the Palace in the distance! We lapped up the environment: a perfect setting for Kensington Palace with the peaceful Italian Gardens, the Albert Memorial, Peter Pan statue, and the Serpentine Gallery to name a few historical attractions.
Kensington Palace has been a royal home for over 300 years and parts of the palace remain a private residence for members of the royal family today. Once a favoured home of some of Britain’s most famous kings and queens, it was the setting for many great events and dramas in royal history. We felt the history moving through the historic palace with elaborate trompe l’oeil ceilings and staircases, through magnificent State Apartments with amazing depictive paintings plentiful on huge walls, and saw how royalty once lived. So opulent, and their outlandish clothes we saw in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including dresses worn by HM Queen Elizabeth 11 that could have warmed a multitude of freezing British bodies, now and in the past.
We didn’t see Lady Di, who was living there then, and we weren’t invited to lunch or welcome celebrations. Those things were back at Notting Hill Gate, at the Prince Albert Hotel at higher than expected prices. Stephen left us there, and the rest of us played rounds of pool, smoked cigarettes, drank beer, as I tried to acquire the taste of apple cider and blackcurrant juice, because I didn’t like beer. Paul, my beautiful dancing partner, visited our room in the evening after work, his room only a floor up in our new residence. We still had special energy for each other; Cory loved him too… It was wonderful meeting up on the other side of the world.
‘THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE.’ Julie and I repeated to each other as we sat transfixed on a classic open-top Big Red Bus touring London’s famous sights. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and The Tower of London are just some of the fabulous sights that blew our mind. Lucky we were semi-oblivious to the cold. It was only early September and we were already freezing, but despite some rain, momentary bursts of sunlight made the tour comfortable enough to appreciate the views and listen to the informative, entertaining commentary on London and its tourist attractions.
After we alighted at Piccadilly Circus, ate lunch in a nearby pub, and walked around taking in more views on foot, we visited Paul at the restaurant where he worked. Joe’s Restaurant was too pricey for us to dine in and we hoped to treat ourselves next week. Dad’s money—the money said to allow us a holiday of a lifetime—was finally coming through on Monday, in three days, and it would be the last time he’d be put off. Last Wednesday was supposed to be the last time. Monday is a definite, he told us, and he sounded so positive. I just prayed he’d get what he truly deserved—which is more than any money in the world could match, in my eyes. Everything depended on it pretty much, all his money was behind it. He has many plans to share his good fortune with all of us!
Another important matter regarding the money is that we were almost broke! We needed to make the most of what we could for the weekend and survive to Monday… which wouldn’t be too hard, since we still planned to have a big Saturday night out, having enough money on our credit cards for tickets and some beverages.
Before our first big night out, (Julie’s second in London), we spent Saturday looking around Portobello Markets, one of the world’s most famous street markets, just down the road from us. The markets on Portobello Road stretch for around two miles, going straight through the heart of Notting Hill, the trendy area of London made famous by the film: Notting Hill. Even though we didn’t buy anything, walking amid the diverse and stylish Saturday crowd through the markets overflowing with expensive items and old worldly character, took up plenty of time—filling the day nicely, before our big night out.
We left for The Fridge nightclub in Brixton at 10.30 pm—Britain’s largest independently owned nightclub—with actual fridges stuck to front of the building, and arrived in the foyer to see video screens of naked men being raunchy. Love Muscle was the name of the party to celebrate the Fridge’s second year anniversary, and if I hadn’t had years in the proximity of countless cool and gorgeous men, I would have felt out of place. Females were definitely the minority.
The cranking music in the large nightclub with a huge dance floor adorned with glittering tinsel and lights, lured us to our dancing spot, and we immediately got into it, dancing, and having fun. I loved the new London beats, yet to make it to Aussie shores. Coupled with cute expressions, I loved how the London gay boys moved their rhythmical shoulders so quickly up and down to the tempo, as though they were holding onto a bus wheel. But my new boots began hurting, especially my right toe. They were Julie’s new buy, but were too small for her, and although my feet are the same length as Julie’s, they are narrower, so I hoped I’d fit into them. And, I did until they began hurting, so I ended up dancing with them off and black socks still on, which I hated.
I still danced with Paul, and we celebrated dancing on the other side of the globe, and dancing amidst beautiful, sexy gay men with the extra allure of growing up on opposite sides of the planet. The music was as we loved and extra fab and upbeat, blasting from the music capital of the world.
Cory often watched us with loving expressions, never a smidgen of jealousy—I loved him for it. He and I didn’t really dance up close, we danced more like friends, not being an outwardly affection couple. Even in my happiest party moments dancing with Paul and everyone, a part of me was sad Cory and I didn’t have fun dancing, letting our hair down together. Although he never said, Cory didn’t really like dancing, and never let go on the dance floor; cruisy and happy enough to stand back at bit and shuffle his feet, wiggling his cute bottom, with a lover of life look on his face!
We still had our special times, and we were having a one-to-one when we heard Paul’s voice over the microphone. He’d jumped on stage to sing along with Sybil, performing her hit songs The Love I Lost and When I’m Good and Ready. Paul is so irresistible. His charm takes him anywhere he wants to go. With his dark hair, big brown smiley eyes, and happy energy, he could get away with anything. Just smile and you’ll get by, Julie often said to him. We all stopped dancing when we heard Paul’s voice and watched as he stood beside Sybil edging into the microphone. She gave him a moment then said, ‘Thanks Paul. Thank you very much’ gently ushering him off.
Many men strutted their stuff during the night’s main performance until they were wearing nothing but accessories, dancing sexily. I’d seen nothing like it! And, all with my boots off. Still off, we left when the club closed, and out the front negotiated with a black man the price of a trip home in a mini-cab. Mini-cabs are the cheapest way to get around London, and although illegal, we didn’t question the process. The one we chose assured he had a stereo, but when we jumped in and saw that he didn’t, he said, ‘Sing, sing, your voices are the stereo’ in his warmly humorous Jamaican accent. We humoured him by singing for a while as we drove along and I looked out of the back passenger window at dawn lighting up green parks, frosted and misty, highlighting our transition from warm Oz to partying in the UK! Back at home, we played cards, drank vodka, and laughed our heads off—mainly at Paul, who was at his funny fittest, and waited for Villa, a day party club, to open at 1 pm.
Paul, Julie, Justine, Cory, and I eventually left for Villa Stephanos, near Holborn Tube, at 2.30, which we could afford as Cory managed to get 100 pounds out of the Money Exchange. Thanks to a small portion of stay-awake stuff, we danced our bottoms off at Villa, and had a fabulous time dancing to the music, dancing with people, dancing in front of the cooling fan! Hours and hours were lost as we danced, and rested at times at a table chatting, smiling, observing.
London party life was almost the same as Sydney’s: cool, hip, and trendy… except it was ahead of Sydney in music and fashion variability—more people to display vast expressions. There was less skin, as Londoners are mainly lily white and Aussies love showing off their brown skin and sculptured bodies. Cory and I were still brown from Thailand, but we didn’t flaunt it. We flaunted our love of life and trusted everything was as it was meant to be. All of us left near the end and caught a tube, then a bus home, laughing at Julie nearly the whole way. Everything she said was funny, every facial expression, every movement… When she was running for a connecting bus because our tube line was down, she ran up to it, shaking her ticket over her head in such a way we could barely keep standing from laughing. She’s pure, crack up material when partying!
After such a big weekend, we slept Monday day away, and rose to a massive pizza, deep pan pig out—on MasterCard, of course. Still penniless. The money delayed to Friday, now.
In preparation for it coming through, we went looking for campervans at Wembley during the week, to see what we could expect when we had the money. Julie, Cory, and I planned to travel through Europe, and go to the October Munich Festival in Germany. Kombi vans seemed to be an extremely cold way to travel when we were sitting inside one, looking at the van’s thin metal encasing as the only insulation between Europe’s incredibly cold weather and us. But, we had no rush to decide how we’d travel through Europe. With the said money through, we now hoped to catch the Euro Rail through Europe—a far warmer prospect.
We took a day to visit the majestic St Paul’s Cathedral, with its huge white dome and Corinthian columns on the entrance, and climbed internal stairs round and round to the Whispering Gallery with a concave shape, where we whispered to each other hearing loud and clear. Then we went to the top of the building to look over London, which was a maze of streets and a bit of a mess from such a height. To think of the countless number of lives that have passed through and were currently moving through those streets, through the vast expanse of concrete jungle before our eyes, dotted with a few parks, lined with the tireless River Thames, on a grey background on this day. My mind boggled with incomprehensibility. Below the Cathedral, in the crypt, we walked around tombstones embedded in the ground, finishing the visit by lighting a candle and a saying a prayer—needing all the prayers we could get. Where there’s life, there’s hope. Tombstones are always a great reminder of this.
By Friday, we’d discovered the money wouldn’t be until next Wednesday, so we had to wait for then hoping it truly would. We filled in the weekend as best we could in our room playing cards, having our own cook ups, and going for strolls around London streets, Kensington Gardens and the adjoining Hyde Park with its cute ducks and squirrels to avoid ‘cabin fever’ as Julie called it.
Tuesday, we needed reminding of how lucky we really were by visiting the Tower of London: the oldest palace, fortress, and prison in Europe. The Tower of London, an imposing fortress with many layers of history, has become a symbol of royalty, and is identified with the White Tower in the centre—the original square fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The Tower is a complex of several buildings within two rings of defensive walls and a moat. Julie, Cory, our friend Clinton and I didn’t know any of this as we stood near the haunting Traitor’s Gate, at the front of the castle, listening to its history. We thought all of it was the Tower of London, soon realising that over the centuries, successive royalty added to its layers.
We visited the Chapel with age-old caskets bearing the remains of historic figures; we saw the wing-clipped Ravens; the torture chambers and the various torture implements. We learnt about the executions—hangings for lower class criminals, beheading for the nobles, in private for the luckier ones. We saw Henry the Eighth’s surprisingly small grave; life size representations of war horses, actual suits of armour and weapons. And, understood how lucky we were living now with our incomparably minute ‘money’ problems, and how lucky we were to be living freely at all!
Still, we lived freely within the confines of our limited daily expense. We didn’t need to rob for food, where once we would have received an extremely torturous free ride back to Australia. Julie had her return flight, so she had an escape route, which would have meant zilch if we’d lived in those hard times when planes didn’t even exist. Cory and I didn’t want to go home anyway. We planned to live and work in London for as long as possible, after the holiday we planned with the blessed money. But was it blessed? We were growing very anxious about its delay.
It was delayed again to the following Monday and from the calls we knew Dad was having major difficulty trying to finalise his investment. He was being mucked around. Hope was telling him about court proceedings, to lift the bank’s caveat on the money. Papers were being signed. Numbers needed to drop. All sorts on things involved in private dealings with the Zurich Bank. Mystery stuff, Dad said he’d explain more about one day. Above board, he fully believed. But, was he getting the full story?
It didn’t happen again on Monday or Wednesday. Poor Dad was going through too much stress and worry over this deal. I prayed to God to make it come true for him. He’d given generously to us all his life, and I deeply wished for him to have riches. He’d always been rich in my eyes, always big-hearted when he gave me money for anything—richly big-hearted about most things. And in his bedroom, when I was growing up, he had a large crystal bowl full of silver and brown coins, which he let me help myself to. Never told me not to, and I never took advantage. Wished we had an overflowing bowl of money here with us today ...