This week we began our long journey to our new life in Canberra and I’ve been keeping a diary of how things unfolded as we upped roots in Scandinavia to put down new ones in Australia.
Wednesday: Our last full day in Denmark is full of ups and downs. The reality of putting our little dog into a cage and leaving him in the hands of strangers is more harrowing than we had imagined and, with hindsight, it was a mistake to take the kids along to say goodbye as the harshness of the process reduces our youngest son to tears. Mr Pup’s travel cage is carried off on a mini fork-lift truck and we realise that our little pet is just cargo for the next 24 hours. He’s not going to like it one bit and nor are we.
A work project that should have ended a few weeks ago continues to rumble on, forcing me to work from our hotel room, and I realise that, much as the work will boost our financial buffer for beginning again in Australia, it has also caused me to be more absent than I would like from the final preparations for our move. As a result, the intended ‘last family days out in Denmark’ never really happen and I see that without my wife’s efforts to keep our checklist of jobs on schedule, we wouldn’t be ready to go.
Thursday: After an early start to get some more work done, we have a family breakfast at the hotel and reclaim our bags from the hotel luggage room. We have 12 in all and, thankfully, the taxi company sends a large estate car to take us to the airport.
As we approach the Emirates check-in desk, we look up and see two of our friends on the floor above the check-in area, with a large Australian flag draped over the balcony. We had avoided flights that connected via London precisely because we wanted to avoid any big airport goodbye scenes, but when it came to it, this was touching and lovely and gave us one more chance to hug some people that we are going to miss dearly.
The flight from Copenhagen to Dubai seems to be full of Swedes and they do their best to dispel any caricature images of calmness that you may have about them – one woman gets rude with the cabin crew about not having a USB charger in her seatback, while another two passengers have a near air-rage moment as the person behind pushes a reclined seat forward only to be met with a man ready to climb over his seat to illustrate his absolute right to lean back if he wants to.
Meanwhile, our youngest son refers to the cabin crew as ‘servant ladies’ and is swiftly shushed, lest they hear him.
Friday: A midnight arrival in Dubai and a 2am departure ushers in the long leg of the trip – a 14 hour flight to Sydney, where we will arrive just in time for bed. It’s essentially a ‘lost day’, which reminds me of a scene from the soap opera ‘Eastenders’ – Arthur Fowler was off on a trip to New Zealand and found out that his flight would be crossing the international dateline. “I’ll lose a day,” he complained. “But you’ll get it back when you return,” his wife explained. “But when do I fill in that day in my diary? Do I just leave it blank and then fill it in when I get the day back?” he asked. A good question, to which I’ve never received a satisfactory answer. And what if you never return? Should that day’s entry remain forever blank?
So, in Arthur’s honour, I’m going to move on from our lost day now except to say that as we landed, my youngest got a round of giggles from surrounding passengers by shouting: “Welcome to Australia” as the plane’s wheels touched the tarmac.
Saturday: After a few hours sleep at a Sydney airport hotel, we catch an early morning flight to Canberra. There is kismet at play here because Canberra is cloud-covered so that we don’t really see it until we are low in our descent. The moment is like a big reveal for the kids who are wowed by the symmetry of the city’s layout, and the way it nestles amongst open rolling countryside and is penned in by hills and mountains.
“Kangaroos,” shouts my youngest son, to many scoffs and a sage explanation that roos would not be running wild around an airport. Then the plane slows and taxis back to the terminal, passing three life-sized models of kangaroos beside the runway. “See Daddy? See?” Hmmm. Yes.
We hire a big estate car to shuttle our temporary life to our rented house, but we don’t go there directly. A few kilometres from Canberra airport, there’s a side turning to Mount Ainslie Nature Park. At the end of this road is a parking area and a viewing area where you can overlook the centre of the city – from the Australian War Memorial, down Anzac Parade, across Lake Burley Griffin to Old Parliament House, and beyond, to its replacement.
“That’s Canberra, our new home,” I tell the boys. “Wow,” they both say. That is all.