I love the UK. I love the music, the history, the culture, the castles. I love the pubs, the roast dinners, the Cadbury’s chocolate. I love the sarcasm, the self-deprecating humour, the obsession with the weather.
But when the clocks go back, and the nights start drawing in, and when there’s ice to be scraped off the car in the morning, my mind starts to wander to the other hemisphere, where spring is in full swing.
To a place with wide, blue, open skies as far as the eye can see.
To a sea-made rock pool deep enough to swim and bob about in, and a man-made swimming pool cut into the rock.
To storms far out at sea, travelling across the horizon, providing the ultimate late night show.
Bronte, Australia was Rich’s and my first home together. As you can probably tell it still holds my heart.
We arrived into Sydney with great hopes which were immediately dashed when we checked into our hostel in the CBD. The weather was dire, the hostel was damp, and Sydney seemed dirty and soulless. It was a far cry from the colour and vitality of Melbourne, our last stop. We needed to get out of the city and into the suburbs.
I can still remember the Gumtree listing for the rented studio apartment in Bronte, a beautiful little beachside neighbourhood two bays south of Bondi. I insisted to Rich that I’d found The One before we’d even viewed it, and couldn’t hide my excitement when it turned out to be even better in real life. A granny flat nestled into the cellar of a house on prestigious Gardyne Street, it was barely bigger than a postage stamp, but after months of slumming it in shared hostel rooms, it seemed cavernous. And most importantly it was OURS.
What followed were the four loveliest months of my life. We scraped together some basic housewares (carrying an ironing board and mop and bucket across the handlebars of my bikes was interesting). I got an office job in a performing arts academy for kids; Rich somehow managed to land a job advising Australians twice his age how to invest in stocks and shares, despite never having worked in stocks and shares. We fully embraced the lifestyle that Australia is famous for: open ocean swims before work and the obligatory barbie on the beach/on our courtyard nearly every single night.
There were blips of course, and when I say blips I mean cockroaches. (The walls of our studio flat were made up of fist-sized rocks, lots of nooks and crannies, the perfect home for cockroaches). I still remember the foreboding I felt when night fell (the scuttly little critters are nocturnal), in the early days before we had spent half of our wages on Raid spray.
The cockroaches went, visitors came and went, and summer came and went.
And with autumn came a shock to the system. No one had warned me that Sydney sees more rainfall than London! We did what all backpackers do: packed our bags, car booted our bikes and belongings and followed the sun up the east coast.
So when asked the question now, my answer is always yes – Bronte in a flash. And then real life kicks in and I realise that we’ve started to set down roots here now, and with kids (and a significant other who’s extremely close to his Birmingham born-and-bred family) it’s all a bit trickier. There are schools to think of, and a community that I’m becoming increasingly intertwined with, and friends and family that I wouldn’t want to leave behind again.
But in another life, I’ll see you in Bronte.
Where was your first home with your other half?
Do you live where you grew up, or have you settled elsewhere?
Could you live anywhere else in the world?
Image from The Wandering Path