Only a few days after we arrived in Australia, we bade farewell to our friends Mr and Mrs S to make our way down to Brisbane city. My husband’s new employers had paid for us to stay there for two weeks in an apartment overlooking the Brisbane river (ooh, get us!)
We had grown used to having our friends look out for us over the short time we had been with them, kindly helping our family through those first stages of life in a new country. Having made the same move only a short while before us, they had helped with obtaining driving licenses, registering with the tax office and all of the other little things that we take for granted when we know where to go for them and how they work.
When we expressed our concerns, fears, hopes and wishes they looked to us with smiles of recognition and empathy.They had been in our shoes, those smiles said – they knew exactly what we were feeling. We were indebted to them for providing that comforting security blanket, but now it was time for us to go exploring!
We arrived at the Brisbane apartments in mid-afternoon on Valentine’s Day. They were spectacularly situated right on the river bank. We opened the balcony doors to appreciate the view. The City Cat, Brisbane’s water taxi catamaran, cut through the waters below, creating a shimmering path for its passengers.
We watched the world go by for a while up there; people jogging in the afternoon warmth, others picking their way lazily along the riverbank for an end-of-day stroll. The sun bathed everything below it in a honey-toned glaze of relaxation. This scene of Brisbane before us, we agreed, was truly beautiful.
Our friend Mrs S had insisted we would need our remaining food supplies that we still had left over from our stay with them. It was only approaching evening time that we realised we needed something more substantial than the Cornflakes, crisps and butter combination that had accompanied us. My husband had injured his back earlier in the day by trying to stretch too far over something else to pick up an overloaded suitcase. He was hobbling around looking wan and pained, but nevertheless we decided to go in search of food.
The restaurant over the road appeared to have a nice menu and was close by. This fitted our simple criteria and so we had decided earlier in the day that it would be a good place to eat our evening meal. We strolled across there in the early evening, freshly showered and dressed in the best attire that our “emigration” suitcases had been able to offer.
“Sorry mate,” said the waiter when we arrived on his doorstep, “It’s Valentine’s Day and so tonight, we only have tables available for people who have pre-booked.” Oh – Valentine’s Day, of course it was! We hadn’t even realised what day it was. We tried a few more restaurants in vain, but all understandably gave the same response and we trudged dejectedly back to the apartments to eat takeaway pizza.
The pizza wasn’t nearly as nice as the contents of the menu at the twinkly-lit restaurant we had earmarked earlier. In fact, it was distinctly ordinary. My husband was by now in agony from his back injury and the kids were bored and tired.
Suddenly, I was very aware that we had done something huge with our lives. We were thousands of miles from everything familiar and cosy, my husband could barely walk and we didn’t even know where the local shop was for the morning’s supplies.
Our family turned into bed early that night, each of us lost in our own thoughts, missing everything we had left and wondering what the future might hold for us in this beautiful new country.