Waking up in the morning felt different. We were finally a couple, starting out on a big adventure together; the World was ours for the taking and as a team, we could achieve anything we wanted. As I pulled back the orange curtains, letting light flood into the room, I gazed hopefully across the rooftops of London. In a few short days I would be saying goodbye to this great city and beginning a new chapter in my life, with my partner and the motivation to stay together at all costs. Love does tend to happen under the strangest of circumstances and if I am honest, I never believed for one minute I would be running away to Australia with a man I barely knew!
I didn’t have far to walk to the shower, a green avocado cubical sat imposingly in the middle of the room. The sound of knocking copper pipes and antiquated plumbing had kept me awake for most of the night, so I wasn’t expecting the power shower of my dreams and I wasn’t wrong. As I turned the dial to hot, a rather lukewarm, tepid affair forced its way out of the head of the hose, just enough to wet my hair. Fiddling with the switch further, a gush of cold water knocked me back against the side. Exasperated, I gave up and had a rather vigorous wash instead, moaning and groaning to myself, kicking the shower door. Finally, getting dressed, I shook Darrell into life, eager to start the day, bleary-eyed, he reluctantly got up. The dilapidated nature of the Heritage House Hotel, is a memory I will always cherish. At the time it drove me mad, but today it is an enduring resonance, that makes me chuckle to myself, every time I think about it!
There were only few days before our departure, so today we had planned our journey to Australia House, the Australian Embassy in The Strand, (a place I would get to know well over the years) where I would get the necessary paperwork for travel to this island on the other side of the World. I had flown little over the years, so undertaking a twenty-four-hour flight was a little disconcerting, but as a young twenty-four-year-old, nothing fazed me. I was unsettled yes, but I was also exhilarated at the same time. Nobody knew where we were going, not even my family, this was an adventure like no other and a story without end!
Excited, we arrived at Australia House early, and started to queue outside. I was really unsure what to expect, but was prepared for a grilling by a member of the embassy staff. I have always been a worrier and on that day my anxiety was as high as it had ever been, Not only was I embarking on a new life, but I was leaving without preparation and no belongings in tow. Standing there waiting to be seen, I was consumed with introspective thoughts, feelings of apprehension and reflections of a life that would soon be history. There was so much muddled information racing through my mind, it was difficult to remain composed and relaxed as I reached the desk.
Somehow, I managed to get through the morning relatively unscathed and was eventually presented with my passport and visa, after a few hours. This small stamp would allow me to stay in Australia for three months, I couldn't be happier. Neither Darrell nor I had any idea what would happen when the three months ran out, but we didn’t care, we just wanted to be together. Both of us had discussed long term plans and believed that we could quite easily start a new life in Australia as a couple. Of course the reality of our situation was far more precarious than that, but both of us kept any thoughts of failure to ourselves, always hoping for the best and expecting the worst.
The next few days in London were wonderful. This vibrant city gave me a renewed sense of purpose and an interest in the future, something I had lost in recent times. As we ate in restaurants, visited national monuments, shopped in Soho and spent time, getting to know one another, without prying eyes and judgemental people, I began to realise just what was important - a normal life, accepted by society and the love of someone who made me feel special again. Undertaking this next exciting phase in our journey together, I put all signs of negativity to one side; nothing was insurmountable, everything was possible, as long as we stayed together, fighting against a system, determined to keep as apart!