It was hot back in Sydney. My son and I had just arrived after spending some time in Hobart. The smell of burnt gum trees was strong as we walked to our friends’ home with our travel bags. I could feel the heat baked into the pavement rise into my shoes.
Our house was empty. The new tenants were going to move in soon. We said all our goodbyes to the wonderful people who went to our church some time ago before we travelled to see my parents in Hobart. Now we needed a few more days in Sydney before we were approved for our UK adventure.
Kind friends we’ve known for almost twenty years offered to look after us for a few days as we waited to get our visas stamped.
We took the train and bus to their place. Spent a few lovely days with them. Tom played with their children. The eldest he’s known since he was a baby. They’ve grown up together.
When the documents came through, friends also drove us to the airport with all our bags. I was so grateful for their kindness. They even parked the car and walked us to the gate. I wasn’t expecting that.
I didn’t cry when we said goodbye. It felt like I was going to see them again in a little while.
I didn’t realise how great a distance a 25 hour flight to a country on the other side of the world was. I didn’t know then how long a year was going to be or how much I would want to hop in a car to drive to all the familiar longed for places during it.
We met my husband, his father, when we touched down at Heathrow airport. I was tired, but ready to start our adventure.
That was a year ago tomorrow.
England was beautiful and cold. We took the train as the sun was slowly setting. Our breaths steaming in the afternoon air. My husband wanted to show us the delicate chimneys from old roof tops, the different brick houses that seemed so old compared to the ones back home.
I think he wanted to share some of the excitement of being in a new environment with us. Pass on a little of what he felt when he first arrived.
“We could have taken a taxi, but all you would have seen were roads then,” he explained.
I was just happy to see him again.
Since that first day, we have soaked up what this country has had to offer. We reconnected with my husband’s family. We travelled to Cornwall, Devon and York. We saw lush green countryside and heard stories, some beautiful and some tragic, but all unforgotten by time.
A history lesson
I found out this year that this country is full of old stories. I think people here know how to preserve their past while still living in the new and now.
I’ve noticed painful stories here too. As well as obvious stories of past glory, when this country dominated so much of the world, I’ve also heard stories of great hardships and deprivation openly shared by tour guides and history books.
There is even an art tour of museums that confronts Britain’s colonial past. I’m sure it would make many feel uncomfortable, but I like the fact that it exists. It’s allowed to tell its alternative story and pressure museums to “display it like they stole it” without being thrown out or cancelled.
Many are now demanding forgotten stories be remembered. Even statues of once venerated men are not immune to the consequences of old buried truths being told.
I think it takes a secure, self-assured country to stare down the past like that. One that has endured much during its history and feels strong enough — confident enough — to do what is right.
A year already!
I can’t believe how the year has just flown by.
Even with the pandemic lockdown, we managed to settle into a welcoming church that is faithful to God’s word. We’ve made friends through zoom. My husband is enjoying work. I have found an amazing ministry that seems to value what I do. Our son even brought home a few As from school!
It has been a challenging, unexpected, and remarkable year.
And, while I do miss home and the friends we left behind, I am looking forward to what 2021 has in store.