My sister of course. A week of drinking, catching up and being a foreigner, what more could you ask for.
Chasing the sun and wet weather, though of course I will quickly learn to regret this decision, in my sun burnt water logged agony.
Long drives, hot weather, serial killers and dust, dust and more dust. hopefully somewhere a large red rock.
After far too long travelling, I am now somewhere that I want to be, and more importantly wants me to be here too.
So did you pick up the vital clue buried deep in last months post; madly, madly in love with this girl, but as has been commented, I am after all called Braveheart by one of the Posse; emotions and the art of feeling is my natural habitat, as is wearing a suit, so I should really train to be an upmarket counselor. One has to kick ones self in the arse in these instances and so after a conversation with the lady who gave me this nom de plume, I logged on to RSVP.com, Australia's premier dating website to use their tagline. There are times when one recognises that all the balls are in ones court so to speak, or pants, perhaps, so realising that my forte was about to be called upon, a casual, humorous and off the cuff profile was duly written and unusually among the profiles I have since read, I included a recent photograph and not as seems to be the fad amongst the females of the site, a scanned print photograph from a student party in 1992.
First day: 20 "kisses"
Second day: 25 "kisses"
Third day: 20 "Kisses"
......... and so on. Kisses by the way are RSVP's version of an IM, thus allowing simple contact to be established with the minimum of embarrassment.
By the end of the week there were 100 invites to possible relationship heaven and sadly I have to report that this terrified me into alcohol. I may have been ready to put myself out there, but was not ready for such a response, each and very one of these "Kisses" having a real person attached and expectations behind them - To be single at my age usually means something serious is wrong with you, if you are divorced, then your are a relationship failure, always been single and well..., probably been in jail for a while I suspect. But me, well I would rather it not be this way of course, but my widower status has few positives and the fact that I know how life is, seems to be one of them. However you have a go at describing why you are in Sydney without lunging into Tash country, not bloody easy and often I just don't want to tip toe around such a significant subject - In the end the sheer volume of these invitations made the decision for me and many, many were culled. With the notable exception of the username "highmaintinenceA", which suggests strongly that there is already a "Highmaintinance" out there in RSVP land, most were kept for a considered twenty-four hours before rejection, except for Miss Highmaintinance who got the spanish archer (el bow) as soon as she appeared in my inbox, solely for picking such a dumb name for a dating website.
I'm now in contact with a few lovely ladies, actually the women that I am conversing with, over email and occasional text, but as of this morning not so much telephone, after bottling badly out of a convo this weekend, are all intelligent and interesting people and it is my greatest pleasure that they would be interested in me, myself and I. There you are, a bit of a first, I have an insecure and unconfident side, but rarely let it see the sunlight. My life is moving at such speed currently that on occasion one has to throw the anchor over board to catch ones breath don't you know, but, he writes cautiously, one suspects I will soon take the brakes off completely and just enjoy the ride. I commented to my sister on the phone the other night, I quite enjoy being on my own, prospect of Thai lady boy mishaps not withstanding, which I readily appreciate thinly hides the fact that I am terrified of intimacy.
You shall hear how these escapades develop.
Christine showed me her Tasmania album during the all to brief planning stage for this trip and I made a mental note that Dave had taken about 70 photos of the historic port Arthur site, which roughly translated in my head as "move along, nothing to do here". This was confirmed when we walked into the visitor centre where the most interesting piece of information was a board of photographs allegedly displaying proof that ghosts exist - "when I looked at the picture I was amazed to see that behind my aunt Fanny through the window, out in the meadow in the third tree from the left in the midst of a lot of branches was a figure that might possibly look like a small child if you were myopic or on acid, proof see, that the spectral plane is real mehearty" (in my mind the speaker is a pirate though there is no proof of collaboration between pirates and spectres in photography). It was going to cost $28 each to go in to see such wonders amongst the ruins and another $57 to see some ghost, the cheeky sods I nearly died with fright myself, so we had a cup of coffee instead and decided to ditch it in favour of a pub I had spotted just down the road from the campsite; all white and Elizabethan wood fronted English country pub loveliness. We walked in just after eight and were greeted with an interior that William Shakespeare would have found himself in, had he been born into a Disney land of flock carpets and red velvet chair coverings, however they served pints, a refreshing change and Estelle and I made our way through the empty dinning tables under the beady eyes of the six dispersed eating companions who were our only other company and sat in front of the fire for all of forty minutes, three quarters of a pint at slow drinking rate, until the barman came over to tell us that they were closing.
And that set the tone for the week, Tasmania out of season, is not a late opener.
Our trusty camper van was to be steered anticlockwise around Tasmania in eight days. All particularly tall order as it turned out. The second night found us camped up setting fire to the undergrowth of a national park, all slightly illegal, but Tassie is cold this time of year and needs must. I should introduce you to my traveling companion, really, Estelle is pretty much as close to a traveling mascot that any family could have, she is my sisters friend and I have known her for quite a while, pre Tash even. Estelle has traveled with Lesley, Kitty (Michelle), my niece and now found herself with me. And no, shenanigans were not on the cards, my list of embarrassments is still intact other than I have once more fallen asleep in proximity to another human being. Listening to the simple act of breathing is as calming as the ocean waves, I apparently repaid this kindness by displaying the family trait for snoring for most of the week, I fear for my future eligibility in the singles market I really do. On the First day in Hobart Estelle dressed thus, and earned her name of "The Tramp" for the rest of the trip, in fact the morning after burning the undergrowth we were talking of possible business ventures that would allow her to extend her visa in the country and come up with a notion for mobile coffee dispensing vans with the name of "The Gentleman and the Tramp", her work attire for this venture was already decided, I would just need to wear my normal evening suit (that I usually wear around the house, of course).
This trip around the apple isle coincided with the Targa Tasmania, a cavalcade of motoring history.... a journey around the island, all well and good and we were good happy to share the road with such vehicular masterpieces, until, that is, our way through to Launceston was blocked by these four wheeled terrors. At that point any romantic aspirations I have for these petrol perverts evaporated as we backtracked around to the town that has been described to me as Inceston. There were no two headed people here, though Estelle bought some long johns, which was scary enough and after a longer than welcomed term in the van without any radio station to listen to that morning, we also quickly purchased Bon Jonvi's greatest hits to provide a much needed sound track to our endeavour. As is my way, I fancied a wee so excused myself from the postcard buying we had involved ourselves in and went to queue to use the public toilet. Queued you note, peeing is a public pastime down here it seems. Once a cubicle became available, these are multisex (nonsex, bisex, I don't know!), and mostly occupied I noted by older women. Once in the gentleman in me, aided by the various women in my existence telling me off for those rare moments in inaccuracy, I found myself trying to be as targeted as possible, that is until my concentration and aim were thrown completely off by a loud knock on the door. My "hold on mate I'm busy" was greeted by the dulcet retort of "open up this is the Police", not much you can say to that, no suitable quip came to mind particularly as I reminded myself that the rozzers are armed in this country. Inspector Plod was apologetic after it was established that I was not the offender they had just been chasing, I guess that I had been grassed up by the old lady waiting, tough living down here.
More towns came and went under the wheels of the white and orange sleeping machine until we made a bee line for Cradle Mountain. Now, I am a man ideally suited for this sort of weather, far too many coats, too fat, too furry and of course the beard, but bugger me, cradle mountain was cold ....and wet. In relocating, the beauty of having a bed on wheels, we tried to hot foot it around to Lake St Clare, but, as ever, the Targa terrors had hold of one of the roads and Queenstown was reached via a very long but picturesque detour. Queenstown is a copper mining town, the mine I should point out is right next to the town, if you have ever seen the original Rambo, then you have a good idea of the aesthetic, rough as hell, we were happy to chugg the van up the hill-cum-slag heap to get out of the place. Lake St Clare was, not surprisingly, shut, when we got there, not the lake of course stupid, but both the camp site and visitors centre. I would not have minded but it was 3pm and there were clearly people in the office, so we spent a night in the pub car park down the road meeting random's inside the pub as you do. Estelle and I found common round in walking, at pace, and the next day polished off a lake circuit in three and not five hours before returning to the campsite to marvel at the view over the lake.
This view became a well visited venue for me for the next twelve hours we were there, as the 4th approached, I cannot deny that whilst I am, from the things that I have heard since being back, probably the best out of all of us, but then none of you have taken the journey I have, it would have been wrong not to enter this period without spending some time trying to find her. This vista bathed in the brightest moonlight, as it was that evening, was the perfect foil for such reflection.
Tasmania, the trip, as it was to be, was based around a cheese maker in Bruny island. My cheese rant goes like this: Because of it's age, Australia has no real cheese tradition, as in, there are dairy farmers, but they have no history to fall back on, no land knowledge of which pasture makes the sweetest milk and no impetus to be makers, they are just producers because the industrialised cheese manufacturers appeared almost as soon as populous. There are specialty cheeses, but to a european eye and taste these are nothing more than squeezy dull blocks of anonymous cheddar stock with bits of foliage added; no really, Wattle, Lavender, Chili and my favourite Outback. Lord only knows which bit of the outback goes in to that one. I know good artisan cheese is out there, and that it is not as expensive as they sell it at the GPO Cheese room, so the mission for the day was to drive there with the intention of drinking and cheesing. Yes, of course I was finding something to occupy my mind.
But of course that didn't happen, the shop was shut.
We eventually ended up at a place called Cloudy Bay, it wasn't, but I have come to expect this in Australia, ninety mile beach isn't, nor is seven or nine mile beach either for that matter. On first getting there it should have been named Gale Force Gust beach, but then again I wasn't the dude next to me who was crawling under his Ford Falcon with a lady friend looking on indignantly. Had it been any other day then I would have given more serious consideration to the notion of just smiling at him before reversing out of the car park, but not today, one must think of others in these times, so got out to help. We gave them a lift back to the local shop, 15 kilometres away so Tom could ring the mechanics, as Susan, who was South African; I could tell by her indignant look and the fact that as all Safa's do, it was the first thing she told me, had to get a flight back to Sydney for her connecting transfer back home to SA the next morning. Good deed done for the day we left them there awaiting the local grease monkey and went back to cloudy bay to make a fire in the campsite.
Our location proved popular, by the end of the night our wood inferno had been joined by Greg, an american computer sciences student who slept in his car, the fool, and Dave and Fiona, an older camper van couple who set up a competitive fire near us and won our attentions because Dave had a guitar and can sing. In the context of my journey this was how I wanted to spend this night, anonymous, in recent months I have been struggling with being identified still as Mr Tash, it has been an intensive year for thinking and process and I need a bit if a brake. Tash was mentioned though, in reply to a misjudged and slightly flippant inquiry as to what type of visa I hold. As I am not a multimillionaire, nor landed gentry, the truth was revealed. Dave, a curious mixture of Australian middle aged insecure self centred male (you know the type) and sensitive renaissance man, then added that his second wife had also died "in the back of the car at 2:30 in the morning from an asthma attack as I was taking her to hospital", the fact that he said what he did, when he did, reminded me that death this close generates a very human connection and that perhaps I am destined to never really be away from my past.
The next morning lost in the thoughts of another life I walked the length and back of Cloudy bay beach, being eleven hours ahead as my location now is, 7am Australian time is closer to the 14:00 London time of the 4th. My journey in its taooftash sense ended that morning there on the sand, my year of mourning is now over. Estelle had commented earlier that day that it must be weird to think where I was last year, no, it is more difficult to think where we were two years ago and with that thought in mind I did what I usually do in the botanical gardens when I go to see her.
I kneel and spread my palm out flat on the ground, because that is where she now is, in touching the earth I believe I can find her and that is how we communicate, a perverse and Gaia-based dead letter box. Though I cannot guarantee that I will not do this again, there was a recognition in the layers of finality in this day's action. I prayed to my beliefs and offered up to her any part of me, at any cost, anything from my being, that she might wish to take to complete her journey, that is, if she has not already arrived, I don't receive all my messages from the ethereal plane, this is not Vodaphone you know.
We all miss you, just as I know you miss us.