Friday – Griggsday
Yesterday I took my carry-on to the post office to weigh and had a kilo to spare, so I added my handwritten recipe book for which Google is no substitute. Then I padlocked my suitcases – a winter suitcase, a summer suitcase, and a suitcase of books for the twins – to prevent me from playing “I’ll just pop this in. I might need it.”
Today at 8 we farewell our son and Cruz at the bus stop. H gives a wonderful close bear hug that suggests he may miss us a tiny bit, although he’s been threatening getting one of his Koori mates to conduct a smudging ceremony to exorcise our presence. The journey is uneventful: a quick dash to the supermarket in the Bay to stock up on tubes of vegemite, a salad bowl in Nowra for lunch.
At the domestic airport stop there is a forlorn, unclaimed suitcase, owned by Griggs. We listen to the ensuing phone calls from the bus driver with casual interest, wondering why Griggs didn’t take his bag. At Central, we find out. He didn’t take his bag because he took mine. By the time the bus company catches up with him, he’s checked my winter wardrobe onto his plane. He’s obviously no keener on my bag than I am on his, aborts his flight and brings my bag back.
We finish the day with a bottle of wine in our room under a sign saying “no alcohol in rooms”.
Saturday – departure day
At 5 am there’s a knock on our hotel door. We ignore it. Three minutes later there’s another one. We ignore it too. When after another three minutes there’s a third knock, J roars “Go away, or I’ll call the police”. There are no more knocks, but there’s no more sleep either.
We repack and dress for the flight. We stash our six bags in a locker and head off to the Blaq Piq to breakfast with a very dear friend of mine who has featured before on my blog as a giver of wonderful gifts, including my first foray into blogging. Sydney early morning heat is steamy but the cafe is canyon-shaded, the food wonderful and the conversation rich. We talk about laziness, small business, power naps, creativity and how to get the most out of a day. It’s not often J is part of my time with friends and it was a pleasure watching two beloved people interacting with such animation.
Of course we get to the airport with time to spare. The flight boards at 4: we’re there by 12 and well and truly checked in and through customs by 1. Not only are we flying together for the first time ever, but before I could intervene, we’re actually sitting together. Will I have to share my precious aisle seat? It turns out to be handy knowing the person next to you: you can dump cushions, rugs, headphones, handbags on his lap as you struggle to undulate out of the seat for the occasional stroll.
I’ve finally got benefit from frequent flyers – substantial headphones instead of the puny ones that let your secret musical vices escape into the cabin. I make good use of them. I begin with blasts from the past: Leonard Cohen, Midnight Oil, Joan Baez, Elton John, and of course Elvis. “Jailhouse rock” takes me back to dancing in the aisles at Epping picture theatre in 1959. J is indulging in his own form of time travel, scent-induced, as he drinks his small bottle of McGuigans red with his dinner. Once upon a time he worked near McGuigans winery and after a hard day in the orchard he rode his bike home through the rich red smell that was now emerging from his plastic cup. Once I’ve had enough nostalgia I seek out clarinet, piano, and cello, and then Genevieve Lacey and Karen Schnaup on a variety of recorders and guitar.
I start watching “Carol”, and get sick of Kate Blanchett’s face very quickly. A doco on Iceland is far more to my liking: magma flowing in a roiling mass of red and black and spurting from a fissure high into the air; a family business protecting eider ducks and harvesting down; a gathering to muster tough Iceland ponies for winter. I move on to “The secret life of four year olds”, children at kindergarten learning to socialise and negotiate friendships. I never get sick of their faces, or their strategies (“If the bully boy annoys you, just bite him”!)
The last leg
A seven hour stopover in Dubai means plenty of time to find our gate, take some photos, organise our bags, again. Gate 13 isn’t bad luck at all. We’re upgraded to business class and enter a world of champagne, glass and metal, starched tablecloths, leg room, big screens, reclineability, very hot food, real coffee, facecloths and separation from the person sitting next to you. I sleep, finished Doris Lessing, listen to music, despise “Star wars” out of the corner of my eye, and watch J using the flight path to reassure himself that the pilot isn’t flying over the Ukraine. As we approach Warsaw I read Szymborska’s poems (in translation of course) and listen to Chopin as I catch my first sight of the Palace of Culture.
We whizz through customs and refrain from getting our complimentary chauffeured car to ul Puławska. After all, we have a better offer: our Polish family is meeting us. And there they are, not only our immediate four but M’s brother and his family too. Jaś is ready with an immediate hug: Maja was more reticent. We are here, at last, on the other side of the world, in our second home.