There is a readjustment required after a hiatus in our Sydney existence wherever we go, be it the Southern Highlands for some country air or a long weekend in Palm Beach courtesy of friends. There is a specific pace of life here, an urgency and business that I have known nowhere else. The difference felt in our recent trip to Scotland for five weeks was stark, the differences extreme and the readjustment accordingly tricky.
The contrast could hardly be greater: hectic urban centre to peaceful (some would say snail-paced) rural idyl. The focus of life revolving around long hours in the pressurised corporate arena, pounding concrete between one blank meeting room and another or early starts in muddy environs to feed the hundreds of beings dependent of your husbandry. The boys noticed the difference between their dad’s job and that of their uncle, thinking the latter lucky to be able to wear scruffy clothes and spend so much time with animals.
The sheer physical differences between one country and another require a change in mindset even upon waking: What the coming day will bring? Discomfort due to humidity or the sensation of your fingers and toes beginning to freeze; long hours of light allowing for outside play or a dreich day spent indoors in front of the fire with comfort food and games; avoiding having your lunch pinched by cheeky mynah birds or seagulls or enjoying the antics of the many garden birds reliant on our feeding them during the sparse months of winter? All are enjoyed, all are the norm now, simply a different part of the same life.
Given that at least one of the boys hates to wear trousers there was some concern over the sartorial differences required but all three took to vests, snow-boots and beanies happily, not to mention the snowsuits required for sledging. The first morning back here in Sydney there was a panic when only shorts could be located – the acclimatisation had obviously worked one way but needed a few more days before the change back was made.
Silly things remind you of the sudden change wrought by the bizarre interval that is long-haul travel such as flicking on the windscreen wipers on when going to indicate, madly trying to change gear when slowing down only to put the car recklessly into reverse, answering my mobile with my parents number (if ever you imagined landlines were going out of fashion think again!).
But the most palpable difference, the one that rises above weather, TV programmes, foods, sports, social life and geography is without doubt the most important. The people. Those individuals you get used to being around. We missed friends here when we left, incapable of imagining not sharing the trifles of everyday life we all share, the bugs going round at school, the expense of parking at Balmoral (and the difficulty), Woolworths vs Coles vs Aussie Farmers. How surprising it was to realise we had quickly adjusted, transferring our discussions of children’s health, changed traffic systems in Kelso, Sainsburys vs Lidl to those people we were with, our family and friends in Scotland, as familiar as ever.
We got back reeling, felt our souls rent asunder, frustrated again at the time difference and noticing once more the cultural dichotomy. But Old Father Time worked his magic quickly. Him, and our wonderful friends who welcomed us back with arms stretched wide.
Therein lies the nub; it’s all about the people, on both sides of the world, that we are so blessed to have in our lives.
Therein lies the heart; it’s all about the people, on both sides of the world, that we are so blessed to have in our lives.