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Gay your life must be

Travel snaps challenge

By Hannah MoorePublished about a month ago 6 min read
Top Story - May 2024
My brother and I at Wave Rock

“My Dad’s got itchy feet” I would say. I don’t know where I first heard this phrase, but I parroted it often as a child, a vague but sufficient explanation for the fragmented answers I offered to “where did you….” questions. The assumption was that we were a military family. When I went to Sixth Form College and completed the full two years without moving, I set a personal record for time spent at any one educational institution. But we were not a military family. We were a family governed by a restless soul, for better and worse, and now, well into my adulthood, I am the restless governor of a home loving family.

I know where I picked it up of course, these itchy feet. It’s hard not to come back infected if you walk barefoot over enough rocks, smoothly mounded or perilously jagged, into enough bodies of cool, soft, icy, rushing, calm or tugging, water, over enough sand, coarse and scratchy or fine flour. When your toes have felt the dust scuff and the mud ooze in the private space beneath them, when your arches have curled away from spiny flora AND fauna, it is hard not to feel that itch irking your consciousness as you sit on your sofa. And the more you scratch, the more it mithers you.

Blowing it all up

I was ten or eleven, already in my seventh school and fostering my second regional accent when my dad decided we were moving from the UK to Australia. We travelled on an “Entrepreneur” visa, though there was no plan, and arrived in Sydney to a sprinkling of snow, and no epiphanal dawning. I imagine it was the combination of these factors which placed us on a domestic flight to Cairns a few days later, and when we arrived there, it transpired that the cruising altitude had brought us no closer to divine inspiration.

We then did what I suspect many of us with the compulsion to travel would do. We set of in hot pursuit of that evasive moment of dazzling clarity of purpose. Most journeys commence with shopping, and this was no different. We bought a large mustard yellow Ford Falcon, a four berth caravan, a 1989 road atlas of Australia, a set of bedding I have no recollection of ever pausing to wash, and the kitchen necessities. Then we unpacked our two suitcases into the storage compartments, and embarked.

The following morning, we bought the bucket.

Our little home, shortly before it was destroyed by a drunk driver. We all escaped unhurt, but the caravan was a write off. Our final night in it was spent in a breakers yard after brushing out the debris.

Australia has a justifiable reputation for being somewhat riddled with things that can kill you. Largely, they do not, but three decades since we returned to England, I still knock my boots out before I put them on. The issue was this. Our caravan had no bathroom facilities. My dad’s conviction that a man with a caravan was most certainly not in need of a registered campsite meant the WE had no bathroom facilities. To this day, I am a master squatter, a skill I have been grateful for more times than I care to admit, but at that time, I was also capable of lasting an entire night without the need to pee. A bit like digesting food close to bedtime or undertaking gardening without grunting and groaning, this proved to be a physical attribute that I would not carry into midlife, and I now feel a great deal more empathy towards my mother, who could not. But nor could she bring herself to step out into the clamorous Australian night and pee in the bushes. And so the bucket was bought.

My brother and I were not keen on the bucket. To wake nightly to the sound of a hot stream of urine hitting the cavernous plastic was disgruntling to us, and though my dad was stoically supportive, he would have preferred her to run the gauntlet of the biting night creatures. But the bucket was bought, and emptying, swilling and stowing the bucket became as much a part of the morning routine as returning the bed to a sofa and lifting the jockey wheel. Had we known how long we would need it for, perhaps we would have splashed out on a bucket with a lid, for the bucket proceeded to accompany us for nearly a year through much of the magnificent diversity of landscape Australia has to offer.

I wrote this story before I realised how few pictures of this time I have. Please view this kangaroo in lieu of King's Canyon.

That year continues to be one of the happiest of my life. Free of school, I learnt beneath the humid greens of the rainforest the fallacy of independence. I learnt the solace of cool flowing water. I learnt to be cautious of what lies beneath. In the bays of New South Wales I witnessed how the porpoise takes joy in the every day, and felt how trying to stand against a wave only knocks you down. I discovered how to dive into its rising if I wanted to keep moving out, and how to allow it to carry me if I was happy to move in. I learnt that jelly fish don’t mean to sting, but will sting you all the same if you don’t give them space, and I learnt to listen if someone who knows more about it that I warns of rip tides. In the red of the centre I saw in towering termite mounds how good design solves problems before they arise, and how inhospitality can sometimes be only a lack of knowledge. In the North, with men and women with skins of darkest brown, I learnt how stories inform identity, and how identity can be desecrated, but never stolen. Each evening, in the half hour candle glow we gifted ourselves before allowing the roadside night to close about us, I heard stories of my own culture in my father’s voice, a homecoming to a Victorian world of possibilities, regency parlours rife with intrigue, mysterious murders to be solved by wily amateur sleuths and redeeming quests elevating ordinary lives to the extraordinary. Each morning, I would wake with the light, and listen as night turned to day, the dawn chorus shifting as our habitat changed, reminding me daily that we were not in Kansas anymore.

Always stuck up a bloody telegraph pole

It was a glorious time, when we could laugh at the stench of a rotting carcass, smelled miles before we passed it in a flurry of buzzards, and wonder at the wail of the koalas. We marvelled at cane toads living in toilet bowls and mobs of brumbies slowed by a feral donkey companion. We encountered one another, intimately, and found ourselves safe. But there came a day we turned around. We drove back, meandering less, stopping less whimsically, to a town we had passed in New South Wales some three or four hours north of Sydney, where porpoises had leapt in the estuary as pelicans watched from the foreshore. I don’t recall if that had been our destination or whether we were just on the look out for a likely candidate. Though my mother had been a teacher until I was 6 and had confidently expected to be able to keep up some lessons on the road, we had been far too busy learning, and eventually my parents decreed that we had been out of school long enough. We parked up on a campsite that allowed stays of up to six months. My brother and I wrapped ourselves back into school uniforms, and my parents sought the makings of a stable lifestyle. A few months later, we bought a house.

The mid-week wash. We must have stopped for showers and laundry from time to time, but I don't remember it

The morning we left the campsite we anticipated would be our last in our little home on wheels. It was not. The old pre-fab we had bought transpired to be so riddled with cockroaches that it is hard to describe without seeming hyperbolic, and we moved back into the caravan while we demolished it. But we believed our time in the van was at an end. That morning, my mum went to settle our bill as my brother and I helped my dad reverse the car to the hitch, readying to move off, a manoeuvre we had performed several hundred times. He checked all was in place before getting in the driver’s seat, and watched in his mirrors as we beckoned him back, a little bit left, a little bit right, keep it straight back now, ignore the sound of cracking plastic, keep it coming, and stop.

“What happened?” asked my mum.

Nonchalant, we glanced at the crushed bucket poking from beneath the car’s chassis.

“An accident” we chorused, without a shred of remorse.

Golden days

australia

About the Creator

Hannah Moore

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Comments (32)

  • Anna 30 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story! :)

  • Konrad Krampabout a month ago

    That was a great story! My sister, her husband and sons all live in Australia now (from UK) and I'm really keen to hear my nephews' recollections of moving there when they're a bit older. I loved the bit about the waves knocking you down. Your writing style and the storyline reminded me a bit Hippie Dinners by Abbie Ross. Congratulations on a well deserved Top Story. Loved it. KK

  • ROCK about a month ago

    What a true adventure your childhood must have been! I am enamoured with dreams about Australia however the deadly spiders, snakes and sea life keep me reading instead of hopping a 24 hour flight from Sweden! Such a cool story!

  • Dana Crandellabout a month ago

    Everything a tale of adventure should be, and I love that ending! Congratulations on a very worthy Top Story and a marvelous challenge entry!

  • Moharif Yuliantoabout a month ago

    So glad this was chosen as a top story. Fab.

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    So glad this was chosen as a top story. Fab.

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    This was so great Hannah, I love the way this tale was spun and how wholesome it is!! Great work and congrats on Top Story (two days in a rows!!)!!!!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Natasha Collazoabout a month ago

    Gosh, Hannah,I loved this. Your writing is always so imaginative and brilliant and hearing about your up-bringing makes so much sense now. I swoon over your story-telling skills. So admirable! This was such an incredible story!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    What an adventure!!! Thank you for allowing me to tag along!!! Loved it!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    I detect another placement. Love your pieces like this and wee Hannah and brother are adorable. All that hair! Just love it, Hannah! Well done on the Top Story too!

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    What a wonderful adventure. You and your brother look so happy in that last pic. Excellent entry. Congrats on the TS.

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    Very vivid narrative with great detail and depth I enjoyed it

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    what a wonderful story and such great memories. definitely deserved TS. awesome, is my word for it.

  • Matthew Frommabout a month ago

    glad this made top story.

  • Caroline Janeabout a month ago

    How is this not a top story?! What a superb adventure, and fabulously told. This is true "bucket" list living. Wonderful!!

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    What a great story - a real contender! Reading this after my short HOT trip there is fabulous. You had a great time roving the land with your family as a kid. I preder the squat in the bushes or middle of the deserted road than a bucket! My Army husband told me how some use a rope around the tree to squat and thankfully I have never had to do that for the other 😉😉 Anyway after his years in military there is NO MORE camping or roughing it! It is so funny to me that the Aussies call it caravaning. Roos a danger there while here we watch for moose, cougar, elk, bear. ❣️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    So glad you have those beautiful memories...and thank you for taking us along, too.

  • The Invisible Writerabout a month ago

    What a gift that year must of been. Every one should take a sojourn outside of societies limits. An entire year wandering across a land you must have discovered so much about who you were, who your family was. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    This is a wonderful entry for the travel challenge, Hannah! I loved it! What you call itchy feet we have always called wanderlust. My wife and I did not truly settle down until my last military assignment. Six different schools for our children. Now they’re the ones with itchy feet.

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    What an incredible childhood chapter! This was such a well told peek into your story! Enjoyed it immensely

  • Lovely Aussie travel tale. I spent three months tripping around other parts of Oz between jobs… mostly staying in van parks. By the time we arrived at Wave Rock, it was dusk & we had no tent etc. We had a quick look & then spent a couple of hours dodging roos on corrugated dirt roads in the dark… not our finest decision 🥺😵‍💫.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Rest in Peace, Sir Bucket 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I immensely enioyed reading this!

  • angela hepworthabout a month ago

    This was such a great story Hannah! You’re an amazing writer and your use of emotion and detail are so perfect here.

  • Jenifer Nimabout a month ago

    A really entertaining read with some amazing photos!

Hannah MooreWritten by Hannah Moore

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