Wydawca: Sarah Jane Butfield Kategoria: Dla dzieci i młodzieży Język: angielski Rok wydania: 2014

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Opis ebooka Glass Half Full - Sarah Jane Butfield

Is the glass half empty or half full? Ironically, sometimes life influences our view, and alters our perception.Life changing events, up to 1997, almost destroyed me. At my lowest point, and just in time, I met Nigel. He helped me to discover how a positive attitude can change everything. I decided not to squander anymore of my time or energy on undeserving people.This new positive approach helps me to perceive my glass as half full, with my aim being to achieve a happy and healthy life for my family. Together, we live life to the full. In 2008 and with good times ahead of us, my glass was half full. As a family, we made the biggest and most difficult decision of our lives; part of our family would immigrate to Australia.We lived the Australian dream; embracing the adventure until adversity came to test us. A sequence of life changing events including, a close family bereavement, PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) following a road rage car accident and the shock of losing the roots to our Australian adventure as a result of the Brisbane floods tested us on many levels.Glass Half Full follows our journey into happy, sad and challenging times. Find out, what it takes to survive, when the odds are stacked against you. Do you fight back, and if so at what cost physically and emotionally? Could we maintain our positivity and family values against the odds?This is our story.

Opinie o ebooku Glass Half Full - Sarah Jane Butfield

Fragment ebooka Glass Half Full - Sarah Jane Butfield

Glass Half Full

Our Australian Adventure

By

Sarah Jane Butfield

Table of Contents

Title Page

Book one in Sarah Jane’s Travel Memoirs Series

Glass Half Full - Dedication | This book is dedicated to Sheila Anne Garratt. | Nigel’s mother, Sheila, lost her battle with cancer during our time in Australia. | Her memory and spirit lives on in our hopes and dreams for the future.

Copyright

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 What will the children say?

Chapter 2 What have we got ourselves into now?

Chapter 3 Pommes arriving in the desert

Chapter 4 Outback nursing

Chapter 5 Happy times in the desert

Chapter 6 Long distance parenting

Chapter 7 Educating Jaime in Alice Springs

Chapter 8 It’s Christmas, but not as we know it.

Chapter 9 “I do”

Chapter 10 Work the plan, to achieve your dream

Chapter 11 Grieving Bushman.

Chapter 12 Family Health tested.

Chapter 13 New beginnings in Queensland

Chapter 14 The Good Life

Chapter 15 Losing it all to flood water

Chapter 16 Relocation: Queensland to Tasmania

Chapter 17 The Retrieval Mission bringing ‘Itchy Feet’ home

Chapter 18 Restarting our Australian Adventure

Chapter 19 It’s Christmas! Tasmanian style

Chapter 20 Homesick – it’s decision time

Chapter 21 The Boomerang Effect

About the author

More Travel Memoirs by Sarah Jane Butfield

Other books by Sarah Jane Butfield

Other books by Sarah Jane Butfield

Bonus Glass Half full: Our Australian adventure photographs | From the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania

Note from the Author:

Sign up for Sarah Jane Butfield's Mailing List

About the Author

Book one in Sarah Jane’s Travel Memoirs Series

Sarah Jane and Nigel Butfield in Alice Springs, Australia 2008

Glass Half Full - Dedication

This book is dedicated to Sheila Anne Garratt.

Nigel’s mother, Sheila, lost her battle with cancer during our time in Australia.

Her memory and spirit lives on in our hopes and dreams for the future.

Copyright

Glass Half Full: Our Australia Adventure

Copyright © 2013/2014/2015/2016 Sarah Jane Butfield

Glass Half Full Cover Design 2015 Amygdala Design

Photography by Nigel and John Butfield

First eBook edition November 2013

Second eBook edition October 2014

Boxset Edition January 2016

ISBN: 978-1493773534

The moral right of the author has been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise without the written permission of the author and publisher.

The people and events portrayed in this book are as remembered, perceived and/or experienced by Sarah Jane Butfield. However, some of the names and locations have been changed for privacy and legal reasons. The author takes no responsibility for the accuracy of events and dialogue retold to her by third parties, close friends or family.

Glass Half Full - Dedication

Copyright

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 What will the children say?

Chapter 2 What have we got ourselves into now?

Chapter 3 Pommes arriving in the desert

Chapter 4 Outback nursing

Chapter 5 Happy times in the desert

Chapter 6 Long distance parenting

Chapter 7 Educating Jaime in Alice Springs

Chapter 8 It’s Christmas, but not as we know it.

Chapter 9 “I do”

Chapter 10 Work the plan, to achieve your dream

Chapter 11 Grieving Bushman.

Chapter 12 Family Health tested.

Chapter 13 New beginnings in Queensland

Chapter 14 The Good Life

Chapter 15 Losing it all to flood water

Chapter 16 Relocation: Queensland to Tasmania

Chapter 17 The Retrieval Mission bringing ‘Itchy Feet’ home

Chapter 18 Restarting our Australian Adventure

Chapter 19 It’s Christmas! Tasmanian style

Chapter 20 Homesick – it’s decision time

Chapter 21 The Boomerang Effect

About the author

More Travel Memoirs by Sarah Jane Butfield

Other books by Sarah Jane Butfield

Other books by Sarah Jane Butfield

Bonus Glass Half full: Our Australian adventure photographs

Acknowledgments

I would not have been able to write this book without the support of my husband, Nigel, who has worked hard to allow me to be a full-time writer. I would like to thank the many friends and relatives who have read the work in progress to assist me with the development and editing. Special thanks to Sandra Kaiser, John Butfield and Julia James for reading the entire book, giving their honest critique and feedback, prior to it entering the editing process.

This second edition of Glass Half Full has undergone a specialist memoir edit by Brenda Donovan. (Editor)

My thanks also go to my children Samantha, Robert, and Jaime, for helping to raise awareness of my book on social media.

Chapter 1 What will the children say?

“Why Australia? Why now?” Samantha spluttered, almost choking on her jacket potato and beans, as we announced the topic of that night’s family conference.

“That’s awesome!” said Robert, a keen surfer.

“Can we have a kangaroo?” said Jaime, eager to show off her knowledge of Australian animals.

This is how it started, our journey, not just the physical one, but also the psychological, social and emotional ones to achieving our dream of a new life in Australia. Our journey would test us in so many ways, and we would have only our positive approach to life to lean on during the toughest times.

Sometimes, enough is enough. In 1997, living or just surviving, I was on the hamster wheel of a life. As a single mum, I juggled a full-time nursing job, with parenting three young children living at home. It was time for something to change. For many years, had behaved like a victim, allowing myself to wallow in self-pity and the ‘why me?’ syndrome. My glass appeared half-empty, with no refill accessible. The breakdown of my first marriage was to a man eleven years my senior. My second marriage, dubbed ‘The Sham,’ was to a prolific philanderer. When it ended, a wound was torn in my heart when, despite him refusing to divorce me, the court awarded custody of my beautiful baby daughter Molly to him. I tried to find a sense of family, after my mum died, but this ended in a fruitless search for my biological father. I used the divorces, the custody battle and my mum’s death as excuses for my tolerance of undeserving people, despite intuitively knowing that my life did not have to be this way. Changes, in whatever form I made them, had to ensure that from then on I would always see my glass as half-full. I decided not to squander my time on undeserving people, or those who did not appreciate the value of life itself. This new positive approach would help me perceive my glass as half-full and achieve a good life for myself and my children.

In 1997, I met Nigel; we live life to the full. We have no children together, but I have four children, Samantha and Robert from my first marriage, and Molly and Jaime from my second. Nigel has three children, Laurence, Phillip and Clair, so together we have made our contribution to the population. Family life for us has always been busy yet fun. At any one time, three or four of the children lived with us, and the others visited on weekends and during the school holidays.

From left to right:

Sarah Jane, Phillip, Jaime, Clair, Robert, Samantha, Sheila and Nigel at the front.

In 2007, two of our children had recently moved out of the family home. Robert, seventeen years old, was living and working on a holiday resort complex in the seaside town of Looe, Cornwall, UK. Samantha, nineteen years old also worked there, and she lived with her partner Doug, in nearby Liskeard. Despite living away from home, they always returned once a week for dinner and they never missed a family conference. We always used family conferences around the dinner table, to discuss important matters like moving house, or changing jobs or schools. On this occasion, we decided that, in addition to the family conferences, we also needed one-to-one talks with each of them. That way they were free to have their say, un-influenced by their siblings. These hard discussions took time and patience, but we are very proud of the mature way in which they listened, questioned, accepted and understood our rationale for moving to Australia. As you can imagine, finding the right time to consider an international move was never going to be easy. In addition, Nigel and I struggled with my problematic ex-husband, Jack, Jaime’s biological father, from day one of our relationship, mainly in relation to child custody issues. .Hence this would become one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in order to start our new adventure ‘down under’.

In February 2007, with only one child, Jaime, living at home permanently, we made our first visit to Australia. We visited Nigel’s father John, who lives in the state of Tasmania. John emigrated ten years ago to become a caregiver for his widowed mother whose health was deteriorating. At that time, John was divorced from Nigel’s mother, Sheila, but after ten years apart, they were back in touch and trying to reconcile their relationship. We immediately felt at home in Australia, falling in love with the dream of a more fulfilling life. The substantial career opportunities and a life-changing experience for us all drifted into our viewfinder. There would be increased opportunity for the outdoor activities we love as a family, camping, walking and beach holidays. All we had to decide was, whether it was the right time and the right thing to do, for our family and for us.

Decision made on our part: we wanted to go. During our stay, we visited not only Hobart in Tasmania, but also Sydney in New South Wales and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. We saw and experienced a cross-section of outback, metropolitan and regional Australia in two states and one territory. February is summertime in Australia. The temperatures and humidity vary considerably from state to state. With temperatures of 20°C and changeable in Hobart, 28°C and balmy in Sydney, and 40°C and arid in Alice Springs we had it all. We realised, soon, after the initial research, that if we wanted to pursue a new life in Australia we would have to apply before my forty-fifth birthday. If not, then we would have no chance of an employer sponsored visa, based on my nursing experience and qualifications. The ideal scenario would be to achieve the move before Jaime started high school. Therefore, we had a quite a small window of opportunity to make our dream a reality. The decision to move to another country is a process. The decision involves not only the formal process, but also the moral and personal decision-making process. This requires the input of the whole family to ensure success. There are no hard-and-fast rules that apply to making the ‘right’ decision, and there will always be an element of compromise on someone’s part.

So, back to the children. Samantha, Robert, and Jaime had been at our first family conference, and although Samantha was shocked at our decision, she understood our rationale. However, she knew her partner Doug would never leave the UK. If we went then she would have to choose between coming with us and staying with Doug. Robert would be eighteen years old by the time we left. We knew he would jump at this opportunity, as a keen traveller and an avid, experienced surfer. Robert, having surfed at various Cornish coastal towns, for most of his teenage years, was eager to go to the Mecca for all surfers.

The first big question was what the other children would say. For Laurence, Clair, Phillip and Molly, who were not moving with us, we focused entirely on the contact visits and communication methods. Laurence, Clair and Phillip were living in Colchester with their mother, Tracey, Nigel’s ex-wife. Molly was living with Jack, who over the years had refused me contact with her when it suited his circumstances, though he had never shown any interest in Jaime. We knew this would change when he became aware of our plans, and it did. We were adamant that, given the challenges of the process, the discussions about contact frequency and methods of communication should be based on honesty and facts, not pipedreams through rose-tinted spectacles.

However, the most important question was, how would we all cope with the reality of being separated by continents? With our tangled web of family relationships to consider, we had our work cut out. The result of our family conferences and one-to-one discussions was that Jaime and Robert wanted to come to Australia with us. We needed court approval for Jaime because, unsurprisingly, Jack lodged an order to prevent the move and a custody request for her. Guilt is a reasonably small word, but one which has such a huge impact. We rode a wave of guilty thoughts and feelings, as we discussed, researched, and investigated if we could actually make the move happen, and if we could live with the consequences.

The Australian visa process and criteria were very stringent, and highly scrutinized. As we talked and interacted with people living and working in Alice Springs, both in person and afterwards by email, it was evident that there was a high demand for skilled professionals in all fields of healthcare. In the Northern Territory, for all areas of healthcare services, the process can be faster and the packages of relocation and salary benefits more lucrative. Therefore, although Alice Springs was not our ideal destination, we knew that we could use the system to help us achieve our dream. In exchange for two years in Alice Springs, taking advantage of the benefits of territory tax allowances, extra annual leave, parental leave, etc., we could relocate anywhere in Australia. At the end of my contract, with permanent residency in place, Australia and all its wonders would be open to us. Our preferred destination to live in was Queensland, near to the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, bordering Brisbane. This would enable easy access to the beaches, snorkelling, whale watching, and the outdoor lifestyle we wanted for not only ourselves but for our children. We wanted to create a family home, that any of the children could come to, and call home.

A work offer at the Alice Springs Hospital was quickly and efficiently sourced and processed. After an internet search for nursing vacancies in Alice Springs, I found a variety of positions available, with great scope for career progression. I completed an online application form, had my criminal reference bureau police check completed in the UK, and Alice Springs Hospital checked my professional references. A self-assessment professional development questionnaire and telephone interview followed. I had to take a medication-calculation test that landed, because of the time difference between the UK and Australia, in the small hours of the morning. I feared my tiredness might jeopardise the results, but my worries were ill-founded. I completed it successfully and we had the first piece of the visa criteria in place. The result was an offer of employment with a two-year contract. This was subject to acceptance onto the Australian Nurse Register. The contract came with sponsorship for a skilled entry 457 temporary visa initially, with the ability to apply for a permanent resident skilled entry 857 sponsored visa after a three-month probationary period.

The next step of the visa process was to obtain recognition and accreditation of my nursing qualifications from the Northern Territory Nursing Board and ANMC – Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council. This was a lengthy and bureaucratic process, but obviously very necessary when employing a healthcare professional who has been trained overseas. I sourced the transcripts of my nurse-training syllabus and results, obtaining them from the archives at Anglia Ruskin University, in Chelmsford. The submission of certified copies of my nursing qualifications and professional development certificates followed, and after the payment of the registration fees, the wait began. When my Australian Nurse Registration certificate arrived, we were another step closer to achieving our dream. Our visa application was submission-ready, subject to the court granting permission for Jaime to move to Australia. Sadly, as anticipated, this permission was not forthcoming from her biological father, Jack. He lodged a custody application, which the court denied because of the lack of an existing relationship between him and Jaime. Nevertheless, pending reports and a final hearing, a contact order was granted to him for supervised visits with Jaime in a contact centre in Cornwall. The stress for me of just being in the same room as him was bad enough. For Jaime, spending time with this virtual stranger, whose body language demonstrated no love for her, was especially stressful.

So, let the battles of this war of commence; enter the solicitors, barristers and social workers.

Chapter 2 What have we got ourselves into now?

In my experience, the child custody and court procedures, generally favour the manipulators. I played by the rules and failed to win custody of my daughter Molly. They favoured a stay-at-home, dole scrounger like my ex-husband, Jack, over a full-time, working mum already successfully raising two children.

I continually and consciously remind myself during life’s testing and difficult times: I am going to survive this, I am a good person, and I deserve to be happy. I value life. The death of my mum in her fifties, before she saw or experienced her grandchildren, reinforced the fact that there are no guarantees about life expectancy. Therefore, I want to make the most of every minute, of every day of my life. I strive to ensure that I surround everyone around me with positive thoughts and actions. I am a true believer in ‘what goes around comes around.’ If you always treat others the way you would like to be treated, then you will attract positivity from the people and experiences you encounter. Unfortunately, not everyone who has entered my life has shared my viewpoint. I have been hurt, physically and emotionally, on many levels in my life to date. Despite this, I have always tried to instil my positivity in my family’s capabilities. This, I hope, equips them to overcome the many challenges and uncertainties faced as individuals and as a family.

I was motivated to interact with other people who were also failed by the system or enduring similar experiences. Nigel and I joined an online British expat forum to help us research and manage the immigration process. Despite the stress and expense of our year-long child custody proceedings, my soul was nurtured through sharing experiences on the forum. The camaraderie, advice, and support from the members we encountered was immeasurably helpful. It impacted not only the child custody and permission process, but also visa choice and application aspects. The assistance of the moderators and migration agents is a valuable asset, and we offer our greatest thanks to all involved. Everyone wants to read the good news stories, but when you are in the midst of the child custody system, you feel compelled to read the sad news stories too. These people need the support of others with experience of the process. Heroically, some of them, despite their own sorrow, were still willing to advise and assist those of us still working in the maze of social worker assessments, contact centre visits etc. We gleaned precious fragments of advice, shared on the forum, from those successful in gaining permission as well as those refused the right to remove their child. The sadness and heartache witnessed, when reading news of a failed request to relocate or an unsuccessful custody hearing, still haunts me now.

The year-long children’s court battle subjected our family to extreme, enduring, bureaucratic scrutiny. This tested our commitment to pursue our dream. The accusations, innuendo, and interrogation of our character and our lives commenced and continued, unrelenting. The court assigned us a Family Court Adviser (FCA) from an independent organisation known as the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. (CAFCASS) The role of the FCA is to gather information about what would be in the ‘best interests’ of the child and report to the court with their findings and recommendations. The other role, in our case, involved facilitating mediation and supervised contact visits. As parents or just as human beings, you can probably imagine the hurt we suffered. We had been parents for over twenty years, raising healthy, well-adjusted and intelligent children, so having a social worker interview you to discuss your methods feels insulting, most certainly so when it is implied we were inflicting the stress on our children. It sickens me still that anyone might doubt our ability to provide the best care and upbringing for Jaime, or any of our children. For Nigel, this intrusive process provoked a unique mixture of emotions. Over the years, he had witnessed the effects of Jack on not only my life, but on the lives of our other children. He hated Jack for it. Nigel is a very straight-talking person and as the only ‘daddy’ Jaime ever knew, this intrusion was offensive. When Jaime’s session involved carrying out role-play by placing stones on a mat, I sensed Nigel’s anger. The stones represented members of her family whom she loved, cared about and would miss. There was stone for Jack and a stone for Nigel, but when Jack’s was designated the ‘daddy’ stone, it broke Nigel’s heart. Our ability as parents was put to the test in ways I hope few ever have to endure. Our whole life laid bare for social workers, solicitors, teachers and Jack to see.

Unlike my second husband, who has a colourful criminal record, my only court experience in the past had been the children’s court proceedings during my custody battles for Molly. His confidence in the courtroom added to my overwhelming feelings of anxiety and torment. So much was at stake. The possibility of losing another daughter to this man and letting him destroy me again weighed heavy on my heart. In the past, Samantha and Robert had endured the side effects of my relentless efforts to have contact and build a relationship with my daughter Molly. They watched me do anything and everything, including degrading myself in a failed attempt at reconciling the sham of a marriage, during which I became pregnant with Jaime.

On each occasion, during this new battle, we had to sit in the child custody court behind solicitors, barristers and court officials unable to respond. We would listen to accusations and reports on every aspect of our life as it was probed in minute detail, including our parenting skills, our relationship and most importantly our parental decision-making. They criticised, examined and scrutinized us, the couple, cast as the villains of this drama. We endured his solicitor’s intimation of our disrespect for Jack, as we attempted to separate a ‘father’ from access to this daughter. The process made me feel like a criminal; I felt more as if the judge would pass sentence rather than award custody. I would sit there wringing my hands together until pain alerted me to the act. I would be physically shaking, despite Nigel’s arm around me, so tight that his fingers pressed into the skin of my arm through a jumper and a coat. Cold to the core, as if hypothermic, I had to question many times if it was worth the pain and torment. I had vowed never to let him into my life again and yet we were in the same room. My skin crawled with feelings of loathing, and honestly, hatred surged through me. He had deprived me of the mother/daughter relationship with Molly, and wanted nothing to do with Jaime, until she became a pawn in a game. Jack revelled in the power he had and he believed that he would stop us from leaving the UK. Jack had taken us down a horrible path and we had jumped through the hoops like loyal sheepdogs.

On the day of the final hearing, as we sat in the court interview rooms with our barrister, she broke the awkward silence as she shuffled her paperwork. “If I were his representation today, I would be more than a little annoyed at his tardiness.”

She was obviously referring to the fact that Jack was leaving it very late to arrive. I remember Nigel looking at me in the briefing room, in that split second knowing that we were both thinking the same thing. Was this another of his games to delay the process, or had he come up with another obstacle to put in our way? Despite reassurances from our barrister, our mood was sombre. We held hands under the table, like clinging to each other on a cliff edge. The only lifeline our positive thinking; we would get the decision for which we had prayed. The psychological agony we endured during this wait is still hard to think about and describe. I hated the thought of seeing Jack, or even hearing his name, but on this occasion, we were waiting for him. We needed him to arrive, to bring this episode of hurt, distress and anxiety to an end. Not knowing if the court would rule in our favour, we were too numb from the interrogatory process to speculate. Hope was all we had, and the desire to be able to extricate ourselves after being dragged once again into his unscrupulous world.

Jack must have known or been advised that he would be unsuccessful, because he did not bother to attend. Instead, our barrister received a call from his solicitor asking to postpone or if the judge ruled against that, we were to proceed without him. He claimed to have been involved in a car crash the previous evening, and that due to whiplash he could not attend. Based on his previous excuses, to delay or for non-attendance at mediation sessions, we recognised its dishonest intent. However, putting aside the feelings of anger and annoyance at his manipulation, the relief at being told that the hearing would still be going ahead brought some respite.

The decision announcement came in a jumble of words: I did not know if I fully understood the conclusion. The barristers started debating the finer details of the order which the judge would sign and approve that day. It smacked of watching a reality television show, events and words bandied about and happening around me, but I could not do anything to interact with them. I think the shock, combined with the relief that this ordeal was over, hit me in an all-consuming manner. I do not remember if I responded to the announcement of the decision. When we came out of the courtroom, I clung to Nigel with every ounce of strength left in me. In reality, he was holding me up.

A mixture of feelings swam through my head, the most pressing of which being the fear that I had misunderstood the decision. This annoying fear hovered over me, buzzing in my brain, like mosquitoes over a stagnant pond until the barrister walked out. She came from behind us with the court order in her hand. As I glimpsed the red official stamp in the approval section, I knew it was over and she held our ticket to a new life.

After dragging our family, but more importantly Jaime, through this intrusive and degrading process he failed to pull us apart. Inadvertently, he had made us stronger, as a family unit and as a couple. We could now make our dream a reality. I will never forget seeing the tears in Nigel’s, and his mum’s eyes when we came home to her and Jaime. To see Nigel giving her the news of the court’s approval, for Jaime to leave the UK brought relief and joy. It revealed itself in the form of copious tears and smiles. A prolonged, family embrace released the pent- up emotions of the last year: an amazing and touching moment.

With the permission granted for Jaime to leave the UK, we hurried to the library near the court to scan the court order to our immigration case officer. The wait for a reply was akin to waiting for judgement day. Due to the time difference, we would sit in bed with the laptop on, refreshing the visa-tracking screen, waiting to see the visa approved status appear. At last, we saw what we had been waiting for, ‘visa approved.’ The email arrived just minutes later; confirmation of an approved visa on the 10th January 2008. Ready, with everything planned after receiving the court permission, and now with our visa approval, we booked our flights for 18th January, 2008. This allowed us time to see the children for our tearful goodbyes. To pack and prepare we went to stay with Sheila, Nigel’s mum, for our last few days in the UK.

My two-year contract at Alice Springs Hospital as Registered General Nurse on the medical ward would begin at the end of January. At last, after a harrowing year of court appearances, social work assessments and visa processing our jigsaw puzzle of pieces forming the picture of our future in Australia was complete.

Our dream was finally a reality: let our new life begin.

Chapter 3 Pommes arriving in the desert

There has always been controversy over the true origin of the term ‘Pomme’ In Australia, however you choose to say or spell it, pom, pomme or pommey means ‘anyone from the UK’. The Oxford dictionary states that there is ‘no firm evidence for the pomegranate theory,’ as first described by D H Lawrence in 1923. However, contradicting this there is a book called ‘Kangaroo,’ with a paragraph that says, ‘Pommy,’ is supposed to be short for pomegranate. Pomegranate, invariably pronounced ‘Pommygranate,’ sounds like a rhyme, in a country with a naturally rhyming dialect. Furthermore, immigrants were recognised during their first months, before their blood ‘thins down,’ by their round and ruddy cheeks. The pomegranate theory, accepted by the majority as the true origin is in The Anzac Book of 1916. Australians and Europeans alike claim another possible origin; that it is an abbreviation for Prisoner Of Her Majesty. (POM) This is related to the convict ships’ inhabitants arriving in Australia, although some say it is short for Port of Melbourne, where the convict ships docked.

In Alice Springs, outback Australians use the word ‘pomme’ frequently, although I doubt many have ever given consideration as to its origin. However, you still occasionally find it used in a derogatory sense. Alice Springs, originally named ‘Stuart,’ or ‘The Springs,’ is in the geographical centre of Australia. The settlement around this new telegraph station was renamed Alice Springs after Lady Alice Todd, the wife of Sir Charles Todd, Postmaster General of South Australia. In 1872 they named the Todd River, which flows through Alice Springs, after Sir Charles Todd.

As a remote town in the Northern Territory, it is also famous as the ‘Heart of Australia’, or ‘The Red Centre’. Notable by its dramatic physical appearance, Alice Springs is dry, dusty, red, and arid the majority of the time, in brazen contrast to the deep blue skies which are predominantly cloud free. The earth and surrounding rocky hills are varying shades of red and orange, which reflect the sun’s intense rays and cast irregular-shaped shadows onto the paths and roads. In the late afternoon these shadows can be unnerving, as they can resemble large scary faces worthy of inclusion in a Stephen King movie.

The normally dry Todd River in flow Alice Springs 2010

It is rare to see the Todd River flow with water, but we saw it twice during our time in Alice Springs. The riverbed weaves its way through the town, strewn with random dried-out branches, fallen gum trees, bushes, and VB (Victoria bitter) beer cans. Localised groups of indigenous aboriginal residents sit around smoking, drinking and sometimes fighting. I remember the advice Teresa gave me: encourage Jaime to look away from the riverbed as we pass. It is common to see ‘kungas,’ adult aboriginal women, lifting their skirts to urinate or defecate in open view; they often wear no underwear.

Alice Springs is a unique experience for individuals and families from overseas. Aside from the impact of an international move, there is a period of adjustment to the cultural differences. Also the physical location of Alice Springs presented its own difficulties. Alice Springs can, and does feel isolated from the rest of Australia, especially in challenging times, despite the transport links available. The journey from the UK to reach ‘The Alice,’ as the local inhabitants refer to it, starts with an international flight. London Heathrow Airport flights go to any one of Australia’s international airports, for example, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane or Darwin. A connecting internal domestic flight of approximately two and a half to three hours, will deliver you directly into Alice Springs Airport.

We organised flights into Perth, Western Australia; the most economical route for a family in January 2008. As we were entering Australia on a sponsored work visa, the relocation package on offer helped us a great deal. Even though this only covered internal domestic flight reimbursement, after the costs involved in the visa process and the court proceedings, our priority was cost containment. We landed at Perth International Airport at 2:30 in the morning. We exited the building through the automatic doors and experienced an astounding outside temperature of 25°C. The humidity hit us immediately we stepped outside. The palm trees rustled in the balmy breeze, like arriving at a holiday destination, but we were arriving in our new home, Australia. I remember looking at myself in the unforgiving mirror of the airport shower room as I freshened up from the flight, recalling the reason for my snivelling appearance. My eyes were puffy, like rising bread dough, not only from the flight, but also from the amount of crying on the coach from Liskeard to Heathrow. Our goodbyes to the children in the run up to our final departure were hard, with tears flowing on each occasion. However, to say goodbye to Samantha at the National Express coach stop in Barras Street, Liskeard, surpassed all expectations: extremely hard is an understatement. Dark, rainy, gloomy - the location mirrored my heart. I thought I had prepared myself for this. How wrong I was! In hindsight, I do not think you can prepare enough. Even though this was a move of our choice, I would miss her immensely. Our relationship was not only that of mother and daughter, but also we were the best and closest of friends.

Although not wanting to show it, Robert struggled to hide his emotions as he said goodbye to his big sister that night. His teenage masculine bravado in the run up to leaving began to wash away with the rain that night. He fought valiantly to hold back his tears. A new void opened for me and Samantha the moment she released from our last embrace. As she turned and hugged her little brother for one last time my heart was breaking. We boarded the coach with my unrelenting tears streaming down my face. As I attempted to handle the coach tickets, my hand luggage and regain some form of composure in front of Robert and Jaime it soon became clear that it was a futile task.

Robert and Samantha

Once inside the dimly-lit coach, Robert pulled his hoodie up over his face. In the reflection of the coach window Nigel noticed his tears. As he prodded me it pulled me out of my self-pity and back into mother mode, ready to comfort my little boy as he experienced loss for the first time in his life. My heartache from the emotional turmoil of the last few months intensified as I witnessed the pain Robert now endured due to my culpable actions. I knew that they would miss one another more than either of them had anticipated. They have a strong sibling bond, despite their normal teenage squabbles. As they were growing up, Samantha acted like a deputy mother, making sure he was alright and ensuring that I knew if he wasn’t. Our close-knit bond of a single parent family in the early years grew from circumstance. After going through so much together in the past, our safety blanket had been having each other to rely on.

Revived temporarily by my shower I stayed with our suitcases so that we did not spark a security incident as the others took their turn in the restrooms. We took advantage of being able to walk around, stretching our legs after the twenty-four-hour long haul flight from London Heathrow via Singapore. We had nearly five hours before our connecting flight to Alice Springs in the morning. The time passed quickly. Our jet lag-induced periods of dozing consumed us as we found a variety of positions to sleep in the airport seating areas. Although not the most comfortable place to sleep, the fact that the seats were empty enabled all of us to lie down and stretch out after the confines of economy class seats

Our flight into Alice Springs seemed short-lived compared to the previous legs of our journey. When you arrive at Alice Springs Airport, you disembark and walk across the tarmac runway from which the heat radiates and instantly feels as if it is burning your feet and legs.  The incessant flies, a less favourable feature of life in Alice Springs, invade your eyes, ears, nose and mouth as you momentarily struggle for breath against the dry heat, in contrast to the cool regulated air of the aircraft. The temperature in excess of 40°C came as a shock, even though we had visited Alice Springs before and experienced the flies and heat. I think the combination of jet lag, relief and excitement at starting our new life made the act of breathing and walking to the arrivals areas laboured, but exhilarating all at the same time.

Teresa, Nigel’s cousin and her husband Paul and their two children, Abigail and Lauren, met us.  The girls had made ‘welcome to Australia’ signs, which for some reason resurrected my tears when I saw them and they hugged me. I was missing the children already and not for the first time in our journey I had to question again, ‘why’?