The Love Story Part 8 - Australia It Is!

Sun filters through the Casuarina in Lane Cove National Park
Australia it is then.

Of all the alternatives, including returning home to England, or staying with other friends in Sydney, he chose to live with me. Of all the people in the world with whom he could have spent lockdown and isolation, he chose me. 

Every morning begins with a cheery holler from his bedroom,

    "Niiiinnnnnaaaa!"

I return the call with his name.

We greet each other with a hug followed by our choice of hot caffeinated beverage, tea for him, espresso for me followed by our daily walk through bushland at the local National Park. Each day we vary it slightly but always beginning with the one hundred and forty-four steps down the hill and across the footbridge to the park entrance where, as consistently as the sun rises, he gives me a playful shove and then catches me.

    "One of these days you'll miss me. Then you'll be in trouble." I smile to myself, secretly taking pleasure in the affectionate interaction and hoping he'll note the double entendre.

As we walk, the sun filters through the Casuarina illuminating a runway of neon green fern. We brush past their dewy fronds as we climb the sandy paths toward the Blue Hole or the switchback, our destination largely energy-dependent. We delight in watching a Swamp Wallaby graze on some shrubbery before it notices us and hops away. Alongside the river, a Water Dragon scurries whilst Cockatoo agilely swoop and squawk through the Stringbark keeping an eye on us as we pass by.

The bush not only provides new wonders at which we marvel, its natural expansiveness and scattering of human life make it perfect for our lengthy conversations. It is on these walks we get to know each other on an even deeper level than before.

His childlike sense of wonder and keen interest in birdlife become contagious. As he is eager to explore his creative side with photography, we combine the two interests giving us a common activity over which we bond. Now our daily expeditions include photographing birds, first from my terrace then when restrictions are lifted, venturing out to the wetlands, each armed with a camera and eagerness to identify our latest discoveries.

After a few weeks, we fall easily and comfortably into our couple roles. Due to our difference in approach to grocery shopping, mine being a little more haphazard than he could cope with, we decide that it is easier for me to assume the hunter-gatherer role. Meanwhile, he prefers to subject our laundry to his meticulous attention to detail, hanging it precisely, each pair of socks matched and hanging neatly in a row. He sweeps the terrace, takes out the garbage and stacks the dishwasher with equal precision. Meanwhile, I prepare our meals, which he heralds contentedly to family and friends as being sublimely delicious!

He is just as fastidious about the time in which we take our meals. Breakfast after our walk, always porridge with honey. Tea and a slice of cake at 10 am, lunch never before 1 pm and dinner at 7. After our evening meal, we snuggle into our designated places on the sofa. He at one end, me the other. The cushion in between being the unofficial warden against accidental intimacy. We watch sporting documentaries like Sunderland and The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team. The brilliant Tom Petty documentary, Runnin' Down a Dream has us on a run on the music theme for a while. At the suggestion of his daughter, we spiral down the quality of TV offerings and find ourselves devouring Manifest. Compelling at first, it quickly loses our interest but does provide lively banter for our morning walks.

When my children visit, particularly my eldest son, he assumes the father-figure role, initiating a card game or a round of backgammon. Whilst he is quite the competitor, he doesn't mind it when my son beats him. In fact, he places a little wager on the game to encourage my son to win so that he will continue to have a willing opponent.

Sometimes they walk up to the local football field and kick a ball around. The new challenge being who can keep the ball in the air the longest.

With his sweet tooth as his motivator, this friendly competition moves to the kitchen and the Official Lemon Drizzle Bake-off begins.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I can't tell you who wins these challenges, only that a contented warmness comes over me as I watch them together and I don't want that to ever end. He has become the mentor my son never had.

Whilst we adore our National Park walks, both being natural explorers, we are relieved to be released from the restrictions that have held us so tightly, that we may venture further afield. We make day trips to most of the Northern Beaches, exploring Manly right up to Palm Beach. One morning, I take him to Turimetta where we witness deep pinks and reds filling the sky right before that magical moment when the sun hits the horizon. His first-ever sunrise.

Our explorative boundaries now being extended, we venture over to The Blue Mountains. The weather has cooled significantly but an open fire and hot drink make it all the more cosy. We look to the sky on our way home from dinner to see the universe in all of its mighty glory. It reminds me of his delight at seeing the milky way for the first time in New Zealand. I cherish that I am the one who has shared these "firsts" with him. They will forever remain etched in his past and nothing can take that away.

We still travel well together and he continues to make me laugh every day.  It works so well that we plan three more trips to take place over the coming weeks. Firstly, a 1400 km tour west to Orange and beyond, to Bombo and Berry on the South Coast and an ambitious plan to visit Alice Springs and Uluru after that.

As pre-lockdown life begins to return, I take on photographic work and go back to teaching the Diploma at TAFE. After a twelve-hour day, I return home to a glass and bottle of wine set on the counter with a note beside it, "Long Day?! 😊".  His thoughtful gesture brings a lump to my throat. I have craved this type of consideration all my life. 

We have now been living and travelling together for around six months, and my affection for him has grown ever deeper. It is no longer a lustful desire but a want for lifelong companionship. I've fallen completely and utterly in love.

One morning as we enter the National Park on our usual walk, I decide to tell him.

     "So......I'm in love with you."

There it is. My heart beats faster as I wait for his answer.

A long silence follows....then nothing.



The story continues here...

Read from the beginning here..

 

THE AUTHOR

As it does, life took a devastating sideways turn for me. With fierce determination, I quit my teaching job, shut down my photography business, packed up my apartment, hired an agent and rented it out on Airbnb, bought a ticket to London and embarked on an adventure of discovery, both about the world and myself. I’ve learned a great deal about people, places and myself. I’m happy that you are here for the ride. Nina x


Where you can find my work...
I will be documenting my travels through photography on Facebook and Instagram. Prints will also be available on my website. If you are interested in following along, here are some of my sites.

Facebook Group - Finding Nina Adventure
Sharing daily adventures from my travels including discoveries about myself and the people around me 

An in-depth look at places I've visited with plenty of travel information from Ireland, France, UK, Iceland and who knows where next.  

Where you can purchase signed, framed limited edition prints of my work.

My professional work as a portrait photographer

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