The start of this year has been a pretty horrible one for reasons that I don't want to go into. Suffice to say that we are all healthy in the grand scheme of things, for which I am very grateful, but I suspect that, for my extended family, 2016 it is not all going to be fun and games.
I am now sitting here with a head stuffed full of snot and other gunk, it is cold and grey and rainy outside and I am thinking, with no trace of jealousy, honest guv, of all my friends in Oz - frolicking in their pools or at the beach, or camping in the bush, 'neath brilliant blue skies, serenaded by the screeching of cockatoos, the cackling of crows, the chirruping of lorikeets, the whistling of butcher birds. I can't remember the last time I put any sun screen on, let's put it that way...
However. Because, there is always a however, as you know. There is a programme on British television, which I sometimes catch in the gym, (I would hate you to think that I watch daytime TV otherwise!) about people who emigrate to Australia, which I watch with a mixture of frustration and interest. I will never regret going to Oz and will always consider myself an Ozian - I lived there for longer than I have ever lived anywhere else, after all. I have eaten vegemite and know how to pronounce yoghurt properly. I get teary when listening to the Quantas ad and Waltzing Matilda. But when I see people who go there for a week, are seduced by the beach, the big houses and swimming pools, I want to scream at them! There are a lot of wonderful things about Australia, not least Moreton Bay Bugs, but if you are thinking of going just for the above mentioned seductions, as so many of these people seem to be, then for heaven's sake think again! Because after a few years, when you find that you are either working all the hours to pay for a cleaner to clean that lovely big house, or you are working all hours to keep that lovely big house clean yourself; when you find that actually you have only had the time to go to the beach once in a whole year (because of time spent working and cleaning big house); when you realise that you either cut yourself off from your family back home, or spend all your holidays and all your money (that isn't spent on keeping big house and pool in working order!) on traumatic family trips back to the UK; when you realise that, actually, you miss walking down cobble stone streets, the sight of tiny crooked houses, sagging under the history of several centuries, the scent of old stone and moss covered corners; when you realise that the knowledge of all these things are hanging heavy on your shoulders - then surfing and a "Lifestyle"existence are not going to seem so important, any more.
But here's another but and however - and one of the main reasons that we came back here to England. I realise that I have an over active guilt gland and that coming back did not change anything, but still...why is it, that, if you fancy a bit of the surf lifestyle, if you think that you will be able to get a better paid job, or give your kids a slightly better chance in life, all you have to do is fill in a few forms and buy a plane ticket and you will be welcomed into Australia with open arms - whilst, if you are fleeing from persecution, you are desperate to protect your children from rape and pillage, you will be incarcerated and treated worse than a common criminal?
Happy New Year!
PS I know that we in England are hardly better at treating refugees, but it was more than we could cope with to carry the weight of guilt for two countries.