September 2nd to 25th 2006 – From the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast
Now then, let’s get you all up to date. For the record this is the second time I have written this, I spent 3 hours in an internet café a couple of days ago, finished other than to start spell checking and accidentally pressed a wrong key losing everything so this is going to be a shorter version because to be frank I don’t have another spare 3 hours, well short for me anyway.
To start off with huge apologies to you Cheyne; I know what it’s like when people spell my name wrong so rest assured I won’t do it again.
OK so next morning leaving Mackay 2nd September, 5am and we have never been so bright eyed and bushy tailed, we're on the road again. Thinking its best to give Stanley a bit of a test run, not run him ragged or anything we altered our route a little to stay close to the coast line, heading in the direction of Rockhampton. By 8am we'd arrived, seen all we needed (a lot of these places look the same) so decided seen as Stanley has behaved so well we might as well push on. We headed inland over Mount Morgan stopping only once to take in the view for miles, have a generous well needed wee stop and stop the camp table squeak that was annoying the hell out of Nathan. Just after 2pm we arrived at the small town of Rolleston, the kind of town with a general store, servo and pub, just as we like them and had a bite to eat. You tend to find in these small towns that the main lunch deals are fish and chips or fish and chips, so fish and chips it was and mighty fine they were, of course followed by a couple of schooners helped.
With an hour and half to our final destination we pushed on, soon arriving at Carnarvan Gorge National Park. The difference from being in towns like Mackay to beautiful places like this really hits you hard; nature suffocates you and is an unbelievably nice contrast. As we drove down the unsealed road we passed wallabies happily taking in the last of the day’s rays, and had our first encounter with rather large emus, heading straight towards the car at full speed. I've never wound the car window up so fast!!!
You have two choices of where to stay at Carnarvan Gorge, Takarakka bush resort which is a little pricey or Big Bend-a 10km return trek up the gorge-you know which one we opted for. The camp was annoyingly average for the price they charged but was made bearable by the wild kangaroos that seemed to wander rather close to the tents at no bother to themselves.
3rd September. We awoke early-as you do when you are camping. I don't think half of you will recognise the new me when we get back-I can get up at 5am and be awake soon after. We had to make a decision of whether to spend another few days at Carnarvon or push on. Aware of the money we had spent on Stanley we decided it best to get some work heading in the direction of Brisbane, so that left us with most of the day to explore the gorge. In true Pommie style we set off on our nature trail with no water, no sun cream and no hats-please feel free to tut away as we have no defense here, I swear we were only planning a short walk in our heads. A little over 2 hours later passing over running creeks, seeing cliff overhangs, spotting mini creatures all around we stopped realising that perhaps we should have turned around quite some time ago! Thinking nothing of it we figured we might as well continue to see the aboriginal arts in the caves-seeing original drawings is nothing like the stuff you get printed on tee-shirts and it plays on your mind how these people made homes and lives so many years ago. The track in total is 9.7km and I guessed we'd walked over half of it now. Never before has a can of Solo lemon fizz been so appealing way back at the start of the track. We really could have spent a few more days here, but even backpackers have to be sensible and the need to work was calling-bummer we know.
After refreshing ourselves we continued back on the road. I don't think we've passed so many dead kangaroos before; the smell of their rotting bodies is too much at times. Sorry, we realise you don't want to hear this as you have such a lovely picture of life over here, but really it is such an everyday occurrence, with plenty of kangaroos left roaming. When we first arrived and passed one we'd give the usual 'orrr' followed by a story of 'how sad it is to see' now we barely flicker-unless of course a rather large crow is feeding on one-these are hard to ignore. Anyhow besides this we amused ourselves in the usual ways we do, but also passing by a creek named; 'Ah-See Creek'. Come on that's funny don't you think, I mean who named that, we spent some time giggling about this. We passed through Injune, stopping only for a Steak pie at the servo (these are another of the things you get used to; a little like fish n chips is obvious in the smaller pubs, steak pies are all that servos seem to sell, and unfortunately often don't taste all that good!) Finally we arrived at our place of rest for the night-Roma. Roma has such a friendly atmosphere about the place, I think I could have moved here and slipped straight into the redneck lifestyle of the place, as it happened we drove to the bottle shop and retired for the night talking to a rather strange couple. Michael was on holiday from Melbourne traveling around for a while, he'd met Christine a week earlier, she’d given up her job and decided she'd move around with him? Rather unusual but hey ho it passed the night and ended with an offer of free camping in his back garden if we make it Melbourne. This is apparently a normal thing over here and people do it often, I’m not so convinced we'll take the offer up. Jess, if you are reading this a night in the halls is something different if you can swing this for us. By the way, you all need to experience drive through grog shops-what an invention, no messing around, drive up, load your car, and on your way-perfect.
4th September - With only one stop at Dalby for a much better tasting steak pie, we made it to Brisbane mid afternoon. OH MY GOD!!! Ok so there's 4 lanes, there's one way roads, there's people everywhere, there's a bridge with no signpost on it, it’s this way I think-nope we're lost, god damn it where are the signs, watch out its on red, s**t just put it in that car park there. We've stopped! Seriously what a contrast. So hungry and nowhere to sleep we do the obvious, we go to look for a job, 20 minutes later (and I’m not kidding about the time) we are traipsing through Brisbane with a map heading for a hostel that I have an interview for. Interview over; the jobs mine only it’s a 3 month minimum stay? We'll get back to you. Collecting the car we were shocked to be charged $18 for 2 hours, I actually asked if that was right. Finding a caravan park close to the city wasn't so bad, our home for the next few weeks was New Market caravan Park, at a very reasonable price of $22 a night, and my only complaint being it doesn't have a pool. Come on its spring over here, the weathers turning for the better and you need to keep cool.
The aim for 5th September was to get a job. Mission accomplished. After securing a second interview for a promotions agency to which I was told I possess ambition, a positive attitude and a desire to learn. Nathan had been busy to and it appears I would be putting these skills to good use at... a car wash. Earlier in the day we'd heard of a job at AVIS Car rentals at Brisbane airport but they wanted 3 months minimum again, it was good money, good hours, and if we worked together it means we can continue to explore more. Nathan had decided to sweet talk the receptionist at Tinbilys backpacker hostel/pub where we were having a schooner after a hard day’s job hunting, who knew Morgan at Avis and managed to get him to agree to reduce the time limit to 8 weeks. The 2 day trials begin 8am tomorrow.
AVIS Car Rentals. Job Title; Vehicle Service Agents. What this actually means is we wash cars. The Uniform; no Scott it isn't bikinis, but rather fetching grey pleated shorts, a red printed polo shirt, hats and rain macs to match, what a sight, don't we look lovely! Job Description; drive a car forward into the bay, hoover it, clean the windows, spray lemon air freshener, drive it through the car wash, park it up in the correct bay, and start again. Occasionally you have to take a clean car, drive it to the booth at the airport and bring a dirty one back. So Nathan passes the trial without a hitch but can you believe I’m a concern? Apparently my reversing skills aren't that good. Now if they said you had to reverse big expensive cars I probably wouldn't have considered the job, but they didn't so I played innocent, said I’m sure I can learn quickly (yeah right, I've been trying to master reversing for 4 years now) and hey presto we have a job. The cars if you are wondering were all top notch, I can only remember Saab and Astra convertibles and Tarragos (people carriers) but there were a few others that impressed Nathan as he test ran them to the booth, I’m sure he’ll happily email anyone actually interested about them.
Nine days later and we quit! Ok, so the job was easy and we could have stuck it out, but before we left England we made a pact that if we were feeling fed up and down it was time to move on, and that we were. Brisbane, all be it another fabulous city, it was just that. We’d explored to its fullest including all the malls and tourist areas. South bank had a lovely man made beach, the botanic gardens were lush but all in all we felt a little trapped. The hostels were less in the friendly than other places we've been, be it that we hit the 3 month blues who knows but it was time to go. The lads that worked at AVIS possessed no other ambitions than to be chief radio tuner and if that isn't enough to put a downer on things, my reversing skills were not getting better. So after thanking Morgan for the job, making sure we got paid the correct hours, and securing our next HelpX job at farm stay in Gatton, we made the most of our few days before moving on.
Having not seen Koalas in the wild yet we used our VIP cards and visited the Koala Sanctuary. Koala's galore, if not a little boring to watch if I’m honest seen as they move so slow and sleep rather a lot; the noise they make is a big contrast to what you'd expect-rather loud and boisterous you wouldn't forget this sound in a hurry as we discover a little later on our travels. We hand fed kangaroos, viewed rather venomous snakes, and generally cheered ourselves up, ending the day refreshed.
Packed up and feeling revived we headed up the sunshine coast via Nambour. Our first stop for the night was Noosa. A traditional surfer’s haven with a rather inviting packed beach. Venturing up to Noosa spit we saw the day disappear. Camping on Noosa River was great fun; great big Pelicans amused us for a while as they annoyed fishers every time they caught anything. Deciding we were due a well earnt night out we ventured into Noosa Ville. First stop Irish Murphy's. These bars are guaranteed to help you get on your way, and 3 pints of Fosters later we were just that. Yes we know Fosters is a low strength lager-all we can say is that they were in real pint glasses, and after months of schooners clearly this is now our tipping point? Anyhow, feeling tipsy to say the least we ventured into Koala's, this young vibrant bar was packed to the rims with drunken 18 year olds who if they didn't make us feel old enough, getting our beer in a plastic glasses certainly did, Still we had a dance showing the young ones how it’s done and left only to be told by the bouncer when we laughed about feeling our age; 'you've just got to get into the groove'. No way could we go home after that so the Reef bar was the next choice. I think we lasted half an hour before we knew it was time to get home while we could make it. Now here comes the Koala sound that we mentioned earlier. Noosa is a Koala habitat in itself with signs everywhere asking drivers to take care. Upon hearing the sound we ventured into the wooded area. All I will say is that Koala's are well camouflaged and hoping to find them drunk is highly unlikely, you can picture us right!
Leaving a little later than planned due to an unforeseen hangover (?) we moved on passing Coolum Beach and stopping for the night at Mooloolaba. It seems Mooloolaba is right up there in my top 10 places. This town offers lush beaches for miles, the town although a tourist place is not overcrowded, it had great shops and restaurants all set on the beach front and the prices were reasonable to follow. We got to go in our first surf club (as in like Home and Away) and really fitted into the calmness of the place. We spent our first day on the beach, sunbathing, playing Frisbee, I won’t go on as don't want to make you jealous, so will move straight to the end of the day. After an hour of jumping through waves we got a bit carried away, too much sun, feeling like teenagers chasing each other, until it all ended rather suddenly with Nathan lobbing a ball of wet sand at my back, of course I turned at the wrong moment, and have for let’s say a week now, a swollen and bruised nose, and slightly black eye, hmmmmm!! Nathan was feeling incredibly guilty though so it meant we could forget our budget, well to a point, and we enjoyed an early bird special 3 course meal for $18 each. Absolute heaven, and made up for the bargain noodles we've been eating the past few weeks. Who could know that a day at the beach can make you so tired, we retired to bed at around 7pm and never woke till late morning the next day, just in time to head to our next HelpX job.
On our way we passed Beerwah which is famous for the Australia Zoo which was set up by Steve Irwin who has only recently tragically died. It was hard to pass by as the amount of people flocking to leave tributes and pay respect were phenomenal. We stopped out of courtesy and were overwhelmed by the amount of people’s hearts this man has touched. It seems Steve Irwin was much more than just the 'croc hunter' but an environmentalist with a passion for life that has touched everyone here in Australia. I can’t think of one person in the UK with that much passion so it was hard not to leave without a lump in my throat.
The Fordsdale Farm stay-Gatton-in the very middle of the countryside!
We arrived at the farm house via a rather large hill that Stanley only just made it up. Sue greeted us, gave us a cup of tea, introduce us to Anna (another helpx girl from Norway) and her daughter, Pamela. Cup of tea over and straight onto our first job of washing them up along with any other pots that are left lying around. A quick intro to the daily chores; feed the animal’s morning and night (2 calves’, a field of goats, guinea pigs, guardian dog and horses). It takes 10 minutes once you've got the hang of it. For the rest of the time make sure the house is looking nice and paths swept. Ok, so we are agreed it seems like an alright deal, and even better for someone looking to get a freebie. However what we hoped to gain from a Helpx job was that we get to learn a little about an Australians way of life, while contributing to their business, and at the same time we expect a little interest in ourselves. After the second day of doing very little, and being stuck in the middle of nowhere, we were becoming increasingly aware of our itchy feet. Sue was rather disorganised in that she'd start one job and then do another; she started me and Nathan off fencing, but when it came to needing to use the tractor to move a rock she was too busy to show us so it meant we were left to keep ourselves busy again. Food on the other hand had been rather hit and miss, with the one exception being the night she had had some Japanese guests so we all ate together with some rather good home cooked food. However when they left feeding us became of little interest to her again. To cut a long story short, as believe me if you really want to hear this in detail me and Nathan can go on for hours about the nature of this woman and her farm stay, we’ll skip to the final night. After a day of relative boredom we'd ended it with feeding the animals and sat down ready for tea, two German girls have joined us now, we were each presented with a piece of quiche. I’m not overly concerned as I am thinking the main meal arrives after. After never arrived. We had to watch another children's DVD Sue’s daughter as that was all they possessed, followed by washing up and heading to bed. Now here's the thing, we're hungry, and for some strange reason, even though there's a guest house with 4 empty bedrooms, Sue had insisted that me and Nath sleep a shipping container. In Sue's defense she had told me on the phone that she has a shipping container for couples to sleep in, but in my defense she said it was 'done out', which I took to mean clean. Opening the shipping container door and stepping inside was like stepping into a horror movie. Dodgy old furniture, cobwebs everywhere, including the bed, one lamp that worked intermittently and it was sodding cold!!
I have no idea how we survived as late into the morning as we did, we were still dressed clinging to each other as 4.45am arrived, neither of us had slept, and we were hungry to the point of rumbling sounds. So when Nathan said; 'Lindsay-wrap the duner we're leaving!' I knew from his tone this was a man not to be messed with. For once in my life I did as I was told. So as the sun was just starting to rise I sent Nath sneaking back into the house to rescue my flip flops (come on, I live in these), and soon after we were free rolling down the hill in an aim to be as quiet as possible praying that Sue wouldn't follow us in her tractor and make us see out our final agreed days. Do we feel guilty for not saying goodbye? Well maybe a little; but I guess if you get treated like adults we'd behave like them and in our defense we really weren’t. We will remember one exhilarating moment though, Sue needed to round up one of her horses, so we jumped in the 4x4 and got to go right up the edge of a mountain, it truly was rather exciting and breathtaking seeing the vastness around us, hilariously the only commentary was our own, Sue didn’t say a word for the entire episode.
Just as we are about to exit Gatton some 45 minutes later can you believe Stanley stalled again. Arghhhhhhhhhh. Nath accepted a lift back into town to get a phone signal and called the RACQ who were thankfully only 10 minutes away this time. I'd learnt from the last experience and was less standoffish when a guy pulled over and tried to fix the car. It was only the fuel pump just as Nathan had guessed which unfortunately comes with the territory of travelling in the outback. A lot of the old towns don’t clean their pumps so you end up with dirty fuel and I have no doubts that this will be a problem we'll face again sometime in the future. We were towed back onto Gatton and found ourselves watching a tribute to Steve Irwin stood in a TV shop front whilst having a cup of coffee to wake us up after refreshing ourselves to look half decent in garage toilet. We were desperate to stay hidden from Sue who often came into the town to collect her milk in the morning; we didn’t see her, and thankfully we were on our way again just a couple of hours later. We were busy laughing at the thoughts of what might have happened if we’d broken down actually on Sue's hill to the farm stay, or even the school run, of how scary would that have been coming face to face with her, when about this point in time we meet Australia’s mardiest woman ever. Having spent all our spare cash on the coffee earlier we had no ideas we were about to end up on a toll road. Throwing the last $1 we'd scraped together in the instant drive through section it appears it didn’t accept 5cent pieces but somehow ate them never to be seen again. The toll woman insisted we pay the remaining 10 cent and after attempting to explain we had already paid it, that we had no other cash and that our remaining only other option was to use our cash card, she finally let the barrier up (by now the queue was rather built up behind us) and screamed after us, 'as if you go on holiday with no money.’
So here is where this journal entry ends, it wasn’t that short after all! We are on the Gold Coast at Surfers Paradise. You have to imagine this, high rise New York style buildings meets lush beaches for miles with surfer dudes and chicks galore, just as the postcard of Australia advertises. It’s a tourist haven and somehow me and Nathan seem to have fallen for the place. We are staying at a caravan park at Main Beach (a 15-20 minute walk to Surfers; 45 minutes if Nathan's drunk) and are really hoping to find some work so we can make the most of staying here. At the moment work is in progress for the INDY Lexmark 300 car racing which looks amazing and the whole feel of the place is a mixture and party, adrenaline, and chill if that’s at all possible. We spent a day in Southport visiting all the agencies and leaving our CV's. We enjoyed a rather yummy cooked breakfast seen as our wages from AVIS had been paid in, 9 days work and $813 each, not bad hey. If one of the jobs comes off we could be working at the INDY over the 3 days/nights. Everyone cross your fingers something comes up. Nathan is having a lot of trouble finding scaffolding work as he needs his green card, and a blue card for labouring on sites, getting one isn’t a problem but it does cost and you need a new one for every state you are in which is annoying. We are so close to the NSW border (I can see it on the map page) that we don't want to have to pay out unless of course he gets offered a job that makes paying out the initial money worthwhile. Whatever happens though we are certain something will come up.
So that’s all for now, thanks for all your messages on the message board they really do help keep us in good spirits.
Bye for now, Lindsay and Nathan.
Each time I read a journal it’s impossible not to smile; often I’m working in a coffee shop and find a stranger looking over at me because reading these have made me physically laugh out loud. As I remember the things that happened, I’m also reminded of what I didn’t write about, and this is what I spend the most time pondering over. Why didn’t I write about them in 2006, and why are the memories so vivid and important that I feel I must mention them now? For anyone reading this and in particular those of you who continue to follow my journey you’ll know that this began as a promise to my mum who passed away to Cancer in 2008. My mum printed out all the emails and journals I wrote from my backpacking adventure with Nathan in 2006 and always insisted I should write a book about them. It has taken me ten years to look back at the original journal I wrote, and although this isn’t a book I know my mum would be thrilled to see my future ramblings on how life has changed since my twenty something child free self (even if no one else does). Three months ago my father in law passed away, Nathan’s Dad, Isabel and Zack’s Grandad, grief entered our life again. It’s not the first since my mum passed, and it won’t be the last, but it is a stark reminder of how life can change overnight. It was a reminder of how important it is for families to support each other and accept the differences in each other’s lives without judgment. My father in law discovered he had Leukemia, and three weeks later he died. Although the weeks were short, and the time will always feel stolen, I heard a dying man’s wishes, a man who wasn’t ready to die but who accepted this was his end and whose family pulled together to make this time as memorable as was humanly possible. I heard stories I’d never heard in the 16 years I’d known him, I saw a gentleness I’d never fully appreciated and I witnessed a man whose smile was one of unconditional love as those he cared for entered and exited his room at the hospice he spent his final days at. My journal entry begins with me writing as I like to speak; in a Yorkshire accent, and again I find myself smiling as I think of Paul who was often mocking us for deserting our home town of Lincolnshire. I came to Sheffield in 2001 and fell in love with the City and its accent. I haven’t always lived here, and the Nomad in me will never allow me to say this is where we will stay, but it is where Nathan chose to reside and build a life with me, it is where our children were born and consequently have adopted a Yorkshire accent. There is a phrase; home is where the heart is, and I genuinely believe this. My heart wanders, my accent wanders, but we never forget our beginnings. I know Paul was very proud of Nathan’s achievements and non-more than that of him being a father, so I say this today; whether we be known as Pom or a Dee Dah, our roots will always make us a Yellowbelly.
Since reading the last journal I can confirm that I am still petrified of Emu’s, the sight of one makes the hairs on my arms stand on their end, and the only drink that has ever managed to quench my thirst is still a can of Solo. Nathan will now debate that a posh can of ‘Sanpellegrino Limonata’ has piped this to the winning post, I choose not to win this debate based on any future Australian visitors we have gifting us a can of Solo that I can now in fact claim as mine alone. Nathan is still easily frustrated with anything that rattles in the car, often resulting in us pulling into a petrol station so he can find the offending item and either remove it or tape it down. I kid you not; there is always a roll of gaffer tape somewhere in the car. It’s comforting thinking over the memories that come flooding back, especially those that haven’t changed, and revisiting one particular memory, the one of us willingly getting up at 5am in Australia I’m drawn to wondering if even all this time ago that this was Mother Nature’s way of preparing us for parenting? Both of our children are early risers, and 5am has been the norm in our house on and off for the last seven years, it never occurred to me before now, yet often as I’ve been cradling one of the children to sleep my silent thoughts have drifted to our days of early starts travelling on the open road. Of course an uninterrupted night’s sleep would be my first choice but I never in those early hours wished my life any different, our children are loved unconditionally and to be able to comfort them is my privilege, but to be able to drift in and out of a time then and now allowing the long nights to pass with these memories certainly helped. Sleep deprivation is often a topic of conversation among parents and recently I’ve had to accept that the lack of uninterrupted sleep over the last few years in particular had taken its toll. I found myself on unfamiliar ground; a lack of interest in my usual activities and people, the need to sleep in the daytime and feelings of uselessness. My sister recognised something wasn’t right, and before long I found myself unexpectedly unburdening to her. With some gentle persuasion I have been able to open up to others and make some changes to ease the stress I’ve been carrying. Accepting help isn’t easy, especially for someone like myself who enjoys being busy, but once again by revisiting the past in my writing and focusing on the future where we see ourselves, the connections all begin to fall into place as old memories bring with them clarity. I don’t remember at the time why my mum told me about the day she found herself at the bottom of our garden screaming behind the playhouse because having children is hard work but I’m grateful for this memory now. If my idol can admit to difficult periods in time, then so can I. Mum never told us what sparked her need for change, yet I remember clearly the periods my mum made changes for herself; swimming, joining a gym, and the joy that she found through joining a darts team socialising with friends to name a few. It’s so very easy to avoid change because it can often feel overwhelming and impossible so I am thankful to have my mums inspiration along with a stubbornness (this I get from my Dad) that refused to let me sit still in time and do nothing; I’ve now completed a Couch25k after many a time having been heard saying that running isn’t for me and that I had no time it fit exercise in. My brother in law has challenged me to be 10k ready for a Christmas race at the end of this year which I have accepted. I volunteer with Cruse Bereavement working specifically with bereaved children and have joined a community project aimed at creating a STEM Discovery Centre in the heart of our city that I’m excited to be a part of, and in turn recognise that each of these have given me back the strength to create a social life that I enjoy being a part of with new friendships made and others strengthened. I never imagined having a topic me and my brother in law could bond over, but if getting sweaty and red faced is the answer then I’m not going to stop running, he doesn’t know it, but his encouragement really pulled me through a difficult period. Let’s face it, as much as we enjoy talking to our mini-me’s, adult conversation is an art that boosts our self-confidence that in turn we can use to pass on to others. Talking allowed my inner circle to pull me willingly through this period that I shall always remember as the time I forgot to look after myself, when I didn’t believe I could find time for myself. I wasn’t going to write about this, not because I’m embarrassed but because it still feels very personal, but then I thought if anyone is reading this and feels similarly, hopefully by my sharing some of my experience it may help you to reach out too. Equally if you are reading this and can think of a friend who isn’t quite their usual self then take it upon yourself to visit, to make that call, it may be the first steps needed to help recognise change is just around the corner.
Now one thing my confidence has never faltered over is my weight. I have what my mum called ‘the Bailey’s belly,’ a bloating that according to mum was hereditary; I genuinely have no evidence to prove this. Over my adult years I’ve fluctuated from a UK size 10-14 and I genuinely have never been upset about this or knowingly dieted. It’s clear to see with all the written evidence above how I managed to put on so much weight while we were backpacking, even on our recent trip whilst on the road it was impossible to pass by a service station and not have at least one ‘steak pie’, if only for the novelty factor. As a twenty something then, and now a thirty something I am proud to remain body confident on a beach, my weight and my baby-scars are all a part of my story. I sat on the beach at Byron Bay just six months ago and stole a snap of a beautiful ‘Aussie surf chic’ requested for the WhatsApp group my husband and his friends started three years ago, I couldn’t help but smile, their ogling is harmless, my stretch-marks are real and the openness of mine and Nathan’s relationship leaves no room for jealousy. The truth is, the only time I have ever questioned my weight was whilst living in Dubai, we had the pleasure of Dr. O’Brien come and stay with us; aka Jess who offered us a place in her University Halls all those years ago. Jess had the foresight to suggest I was tested for PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) after talking over my struggles at being unable to conceive. A week later and PCOS was confirmed, along with this diagnosis came some suggestions on the right type of exercise and a diet that may help me to conceive. My mindset changed, we wanted a baby, exercise became a part of my life that I learned to enjoy, and by looking at the food I ate I was able to make a lifestyle change that just 6 months later saw me drop two dress sizes and be able to hold in my hand a pregnancy stick with two bright red positive lines. So from the shores of Australia to the deserts of Dubai, and here now in the UK I feel incredibly lucky to be a mum to not one, but two inspiring children, but equally with this I am grateful for every single one of my lifelong friends and family who remain accepting of each other for who we are and not what size we are. My biggest advocate is of course Nathan, our relationship when we set off on our backpacking adventure was not one set for marriage and children, in fact we were still getting to know each other and there was much negotiating to be done on each side. I believe what makes a relationship work is choosing to embrace and accept each other’s individuality, once you have this security of knowing you are supported, the love follows, grows, and becomes the unbreakable bond of a marriage. I backpacked with Nathan a UK size 14, I married Nathan a UK size 12 (or at least that’s what size I squeezed into my wedding dress at), I dropped to a UK size 8 whilst breastfeeding our daughter, and am currently maintaining a UK size 10 (just). I still watch what I eat as I am aware how this affects me having PCOS, and am enjoying the return to exercise. I have no intentions of ever turning down the Yorkie chocolate bar that Nathan brings home randomly mid-week because he knows it’s my favourite and I will always choose to point out beautiful men and women who catch my eye when we are out together because we are human and our eyes are drawn to others around us. Beauty is all around us in many shapes and sizes and something I love to do along with pointing this out to Nathan is to tell a stranger; if I like what they are wearing, if their hairstyle catches my eye or if something they are doing looks interesting I tell them, I try to offer encouraging words or a thoughtful smile when perhaps it looks like someone is having a tough time in the hope that these connections may just be what the other person needs to hear, and if I can teach Isabel and Zack anything it’s that being beautiful isn’t a picture image, it’s a persona that self-belief carries and we can all play a role in encouraging and seeing this in everyone around us, and when we accept this we open ourselves up to love in any shape or form. Society focusses on us not talking to strangers, but over the years that have passed by I have talked to many strangers, some of whose words have stayed with me one way or another. When I think about Michael who we met at Roma and his offer to camp in his back garden that I then saw as being strange, now with hindsight if the same offer was presented to us I’m confident I would accept (or at least consider openly) as one of that possibly would have brought with it a friendship – this I’ll now never know, but one that I do believe was definitely offered with kindness in mind, something that sadly is often overlooked.
Recently I was reading the story book ‘The Ladybird who said never a word’ by Julia Donaldson to Zack and it made me think of a great backpackers parody with Sue. ‘Sue who said never a word when we discovered a deadly red back spider whilst building a stone wall, Sue who said never a word when she watched us carving out pumpkins to make soup that barely fed us, and Sue who said never a word when she saw our car rolling down the hill away from the farm stay in the very early hours of the morning. It had me thinking; Why did I allow Sue, a grown woman, to accommodate us in a dirty shipping container for an evening leading to us feeling that our only option was to disappear in the early hours without so much as a thank you? Why did I accept and say nothing to a group of men laughing at my ‘typical lass’ reversing skills that consequently lead to me quitting a job earlier than planned? I guess back then we had no ties, we were young, wild and free, there was no emotional attachment to any of the jobs, we moved on completely care free and therefore any confrontation that I may have faced by speaking my mind was not necessary. By choosing not to say anything the memories have been something we can think of now with nothing but laughter and triumph, such as the occasion in a pub just a few years ago with a couple of friends discussing how I still chose to park further away rather than parallel park or reverse into tight spaces. Chris, who just so happened to be a driving instructor took me under his wing determined to give himself a good rep rectifying the sexism of those men in Australia, and he miraculously (this is my choice of word as I never actually believed in myself considering that when I passed my driving test for the first time aged 21 I remember feeling it had been a complete fluke) achieved both; I did successfully parallel park at the end of his lessons which couldn’t have been better timing seen as were about to move into a terraced house with limited parking on one of the many steep hills in Sheffield. When I think of my mum I’m reminded how I often felt she ‘sat on the fence’ when it came to confrontation and how I’ve always considered myself confidently outspoken; with this I’ve tested many a friendship with my opinions. The ones that have survived tell me that our friendship works because I wear my heart on my sleeve, it’s true, when it comes to standing up for myself or my nearest and dearest, no matter the consequences I’m always on the front line prepared to debate. With clarity I see now how my mum wasn’t sitting on the fence, they simply weren’t her battles to fight, she was in fact parenting. We all need to learn the skills of managing our actions and emotions in different situations, and we all need someone we can come to without judgment to console or offer advice for moving forward when things don’t pan out as we hoped; my mum was always that person. If I’ve learnt anything from this blog it’s that I feel more alike my mum with every day that passes, and that this is a wonderful feeling.
To Isabel and Zack; firstly always remember to save your work half way through to avoid hours of words going missing. Secondly, take a good look around you; there are happy and successful people of all shapes and sizes. If I can ask anything of you both it is to make good food choices, to avoid all fad diets and be body confident with the shape you have; also to always have a box of emergency choc-ices stashed in the freezer just like your Nana did.
To mum; Thank you for showing me that we don’t need to hide the tough times from our children, but instead show them we are human and that happiness is something to strive for. Your tough times have sat in my subconscious until such a time as recently that I’ve needed to recall on these to remind me how to move forward through a fog. I wouldn’t have known to say it then, but if you were here today I’d tell you how much of an incredible a woman you were, how I see your strength and courage, and how I appreciate the efforts you went through to show us how to find ways to look after ourselves as importantly as we do our children.
*Pictures above; our wonderful Avis uniform in Brisbane, the shipping container in Gatton and Carnarvan Gorge
I am a 'wannabe' Nomad who currently lives in Sheffield with my husband and two children. I genuinely love exploring new places but finding time to fit this in is tricky so more often than not I'm found in the closest independent coffee shop because nothing cheers me up better than a decent coffee.