The World was a very different place in 1995, when Darrell and I met. For a start both of us were much younger than we are today, still partying for days on end and enjoying the best years of our youth. Darrell was backpacking in Britain, staying with friends Matt and Jimbob in Newbury and spending weekends clubbing and pubbing in Southampton, where I resided at the time. I lived on a gay scene 24/7, my whole life centred around a community of like-minded individuals, coming to terms with their sexuality, navigating their way through life and the daily barrage of abuse, bullying and torment, from anyone who wasn't gay. With no laws in place to protect us and our equal rights, we were very much on our own, trying to make sense of the place we lived in and just how we fitted into the grand scheme of things.
Darrell formed a relationship with a close friend of mine and despite their best efforts to stay together, life became difficult, strained and eventually their fledgling partnership broke down. By the time it ended, I had also become close friends with Darrell and together with my partner at the time, invited him to stay with us, while looking for somewhere more permanent to live. I was never looking for a new relationship, I was at least on the surface happy with my circumstances and although we were getting closer, there were aspects of Darrell's personality I couldn't stand. He was Australian in every sense of the word, arrogant and always right. However, the life I led at the time conspired with my then state of mind to change all that and after a particularly heavy night of partying, we formed a bond that lasts until this day.
Everyone else in the flat above Pinkies Public House was asleep, just Darrell and I sat up, talking and chatting, trying to make sense of the feelings we had for one another. In a short space of time we had fallen in love and wanted to spend the rest of our life together. That morning on the 22nd September was strange, as we left the flat at 3am in the morning to walk to the garage up the road to buy some cigarettes. As we walked we continued to talk, briefly sitting on a wall watching the stars twinkle in the sky. Suddenly Darrell mentioned Australia and how much better one could see the constellations at night and maybe, just maybe I should come home with him, so we could be together away from the pressures of gay life in Southampton. As I sat there thinking, my emotions overtook the reality in my head and I agreed, we should run, run away as quick as we could that very morning and travel to Perth, where we would live happily ever after!
My boyfriend at the time was still fast asleep when we returned to the flat. Both of us walked quietly through the hall way, and up the stairs to the lounge, where Darrell began to pack his things. Meanwhile, I popped into the flat next door, to speak to a friend, Mark about my decision to leave. He was delighted for me, but apprehensive of the path I had chosen. There would be a lot of angry people left behind when I left, but he would do his best to help smooth out the mayhem we were going to leave in our wake. In his words 'Queens can be vindictive at the best of times!' Mark gave me his bank card and said he would put some money in when he could, so I would have something at least. This was 1995, I was unemployed and had very little money to speak of and would have to rely solely on Darrell, as we prepared to leave Britain.
Trying to find my passport was a challenge, as I quietly went downstairs into my bedroom where my parter was sleeping. Trying not to make any noise, I rumbled through draws and cupboards, but to no avail, I just couldn't find the little black book. Eventually I had no choice, waking my boyfriend from his sleep, I asked him gently if he knew where my passport was. Instinctively, he pointed to the dressing table in the corner, but didn't open an eye. Whether he knew I was about to leave or just half asleep and unaware of my plans, I still don't know to this day, but I found the document and left the room, closing the door behind. As my hand sat there for a moment, on the brass door knob, I clung just a bit tighter, not wanting to let go. Was I making the right decision? Did I still have feelings for my boyfriend? Wasn't this just reckless behaviour? I gulped deeply catching my breath, shaking my head back to the reality of here and now. It was time to go, it was time to leave this hell-hole behind!
It was 5am when we departed, the sun was rising in the sky, and we were ready to go. Darrell had packed his belongings, leaving nothing behind, I left with just the clothes on my back. Heart beating faster and faster, anxiety at boiling point we both left for the train station, relieved at not getting caught, happy to be away from the flat. Two impulsive young men, recovering from a night partying, leaving for a new life on the other side of the World. I had no regrets, just a mischievous sigh of anticipation, as we walked the short distance to the station waiting for the first train to London. This was the life changing decision I had been waiting for, for so long, this was the start of a new life away from the pressures of an inward looking vengeful gay scene that had run its course, this was the beginning of the rest of my life!