I sit there in my easy chair, looking at the clouds, orange with celebration and I wonder if you’re out there – 31st December 1994

Well, there’s only one place to go on New Year’s Eve and that’s the big city, so we end up at Libby and Dougie’s via Hornsby where P_ is looking after Ben and James (not that Ben needs looking after) and then on train to Cathy’s (remember you have to be mad to drive in Sydney and we don’t feel like it today which will be one of the busiest days of the year).

Cathy’s mad though and drives us into the city where we all settle into a long night of drinking cocktails, beer and champagne and smoking cones, playing party games and being too drunk to be coherent.

At nine or so I manage to convince everyone who can to come up the road to see the fireworks that go off in the harbour and on the bridge. They last for about half an hour and though our view is obscured slightly by a big gum tree they look magnificent in the dry night sky. The bridge we can see clearly though and that goes off with magnificent cascades and fountains of sparks imitating the previous storms.

We stumble back drunk and happy, high on life, chatting furiously and continue with party games and more merriment ’til time comes to wish each other a happy new year and we’re into 1995.

And the first thing I can remember of this new year is a glorious hangover.

One of these days it’ll all settle down – 30th December 1994

We ring England to speak to Chrissie to find out if she’s ok and we find them in the middle of a party, just like we remember and we can’t really hear much of what’s being said with all the noise going on in the background but everyone was fine and in good health by the sounds of it.

It cheers us up each time we get to speak to people back in England despite pulling at our heartstrings to be back there with them.

At last, a day to settle into our home and sort things out and drive to the shops to pick up groceries and small household items and clothes for Broni’s new job which will be strange after the last four months or so hanging out together virtually every minute of every day, now she’ll be away and I’ll be playing house husband, it’s been a real test of our relationship and one that we’ve completed easily, easier than we expected. To be with each other all that time shows our devotion and love and willingness to learn and understand each other, to adapt to our changes, so today with a few more weeks ’til we get married, we love each other as much as when we first met and travelled England those couple of years ago when the future was uncertain because I knew she wanted to come back home to Australia.

It’s good to be back in a car and one with a stereo and we fall in love with Camper Van Beethoven whose music suits the surroundings with it’s lazy quirkiness and lyrics to match, “everything seems to be up in the air at this time, one of these days it’ll all settle down, but everything seems to be up in the air at this time” and “just get high while the radio’s on, adjust the lights and sing a song, drive your car up on the lawn, let me play your guitar!”

Spinning on that dizzy edge – 29th December 1994

Cathy and Libby bring little Reg and tall Gough up and they run around tearing the place apart much to Broni’s dismay so we take them to the beach where Reg’s two-year-old mind had difficulty coping with the prospect of water rushing around his feet and when the wave broke and rushed up the beach engulfing those tiny fleshy toes his eyes looked left at me and a curious look sat on his face – wow, what was that? I’m not sure if I like that or not….. it’s pretty scary…. “Mamee, Mamee!” – that kid will knock all the girls dead, just you wait and see.

They leave even-time and Broni rests exhausted with all the running around and she dreams up ways of making the house child-safe/childproof and of course, we can’t afford anything like that.

A huge thunderstorm breaks slowly, building over the mountains to the west and in the distance flashes radiate in the heavens. Soon strikes head for the ground and more and more frequently (we later discover something like 5000 strikes over about two hours, luckily we are away from it and have the pleasure of being able to watch it and it’s like a movie screen looking out through our window. A spectacular flash starts at one edge of the sky and heads out across the sky seemingly following a cobweb, lasts several seconds as it travels across the web to the other side of the sky, a maze of conductors in the clouds. Unreal!

The slow creeping in of night time is accompanied by ominous bulging dark clouds, blotting out the sun, as they rise over the hill on our horizon. Seemingly engulfing the sky, black shadows billowing, dark eyes sinking low and roll, roll on the night.

The ever-present cicada cacophony crescendoes across the humid valley and suddenly it’s set alight by a blaze of lightning, the flashlights of the gods and we sit and wait and here it comes the rumble.

Just a slow mover tonight as we sit in the still night air, in anticipation, eyes ready and expectant.

The low clouds are near touchable if only we could climb. They fly past, like ghostly apparitions, out to sea, speeding to their fate.

Here on earth it is still though, as flashes become more frequent and rumbles come that quicker. And then, as at a switch is hit, the cool wind arrives from the south and you know, then you know it’s only a matter of time.

Sure enough, big globs of water slowly descend and bounce on the dry ground. And more, until a downpour which disappears as quick as it started and its traces a mere dampness and a smell fresher than mountain air.

The storm continues over – ever brighter and spectacular to its gazers.

Cobwebs of bolts, like battling swordsmen, steel and scrape the skies.

Once again we are wowed by nature and it’s many wonders. We are also humbled and consider our place in this world.

13th Apr 2021 – I really did marvel at the scale of storms in Australia. The whole sky just seemed bigger than in England and was a blue I’d rarely seen before. Why the sky seems bigger I’m not sure, perhaps the lack of hedgerows and maybe the knowledge that in Australia, over the hill in the distance are just more hills yet in England, over the hill is likely to be another town. Maybe the unfamiliarity with the stars. I remember having to relearn my understanding of direction as the sun now sat in a different part of the sky than I was used to. I got lost often whenever I was driving around at first. That’s fine though – I love being lost.

I want to be stereotyped, I want to be classified – 28th December 1994

Today reminds us to count our blessings, it being one year since Steve passed away and it sure don’t seem like all those 365 days have gone by without seeing or talking to him. Each day has been recorded here for my benefit, each day busy with preparations and plans, so much done and said, it doesn’t seem possible that he hasn’t been here with us (all of us who knew and loved him). His life and actions still strong in our minds and hearts, an inspiration to us all, forever.

And typically, me and my beloved sweetheart are so damn busy today we don’t get much time to dwell about the past, today we’re running around buying ourselves a car and organising financial support from the bank in order to do it. a severe strain on our monies – in fact we are nearly broke at the end of the day, but shit, money isn’t everything and we know we’ll manage and as if we are being looked after by some other force, our next door neighbour offers us the lend of two chairs so now we have somewhere to sit in our lounge and then C_ and P_ lend us table and chairs so we have somwhere to dine and our house is turning into a home – with a car in the drive!

There’s a tremble, and a rumbling, inhale- 27th December 1994


Out this window, through the vertical blinds, the insect screen, through the sun reflector and beyond our verandah and garden, the houses descend into the small valley and up the other side pushing for position with all the green rainforest, palms, ferns, gums and bamboo.

The rooftops visible in the sway of wet green leaves, where the crickets hang out buzzing around, their insane chatter carrying through the air – thousands of singing messages – here comes rain, here comes sun.

Grey and black clouds dominate the horizon, the air dank and still in my windowed vision, all quiet and anticipatory.

But now it’s time to leave this paradisiacal view and head out over the hill that we live on and down past the beach to the bustling village, buzzing with it’s human insects going about their merry way.

Out of our door the humid air clings shirt to skin and push push push the legs up the hill, short but dramatic, to meet the dirt track through the forest between scattered dwellings.

The crickets see your approach and snap into sudden silence as you pass the tall broken barked trees they inhabit(shh, here he comes!). The air drips moisture from the leaves high above, the ones that touch the sky. Odd insects buzz around often looking for some cool fresh blood to suck on – be quick, flick of the wrists – the Australian wave.

As the hill flats out and you begin to descend the other side, through the trees and buildings, the roar of the ocean beckons you forward, waving all the time. At the end of the road, the bottom of the hill, the sea stands before you far and wide and at it’s edge the crashing glory of the white crested waves, dotted with wet-suited bodies waiting on the big one.

Skirt the beach along the main road where traffic piles up because in this town pedestrians get right of way and that upsets the hoon element in their flash cars, boom box stereos blasting. The crowds are bustling from beach to shop to cafe and not much else. Young bronzed blondes hang round in threes, hanging out, being cool, playing the games of teenagers on the lookout for love, and I’m sure the surfers aren’t interested because they’re thinking about a different sex wax entirely and so the girls get themselves more beautiful and scantily clad in effort to swoon some dude away from his board but they’re still only interested in catching waves and so it goes on, this place a hot bed of sexual frustration. Maybe?!

The pace is slow and what the hell, there’s no hurry, those waves keep coming. These tough old legs carry me back home where, on the telephone wire to our house I spot something odd hanging on and its kinda long and thin and has four thin long double jointed legs and it’s a praying mantis – as long as your forearm and thicker than a hotdog. I hope that sucker doesn’t spot the gap under our front door!

I’m flipping in the wind like a flag on a pole – 16th December 1994

Mentally exhausted, stressed, frayed at the seams – me and my love are flaking it, ok, we do it to ourselves cos we’re on the move again.

On Monday we borrowed Cathy’s car and drove up to the Central Coast, crashing at P_’s overnight, up and out early to house hunt, we drive round and round in circles round the beautiful beachline towns, checking particularly in busy little Terrigal which we like as soon as we drive through. We check out a fully furnished house on a hill with a verandah deck the same size as the house and a dramatic gorgeous view of cliffs, beach and ocean, we love this old wooden shack and dream of sitting out on the verandah sipping wine and feeling the evening sea breeze caress our warm cheeks like silk sheets. Unhappily, it stays a dream as it is just out of our price range and decide to pick on something unfurnished and cheaper so that when we move again (yeah, we’re always moving, might as well think about it now) we’ll have some furnishings to take with us.

And the next day we find us a nice home just a short walk from the beach. With 3 bedrooms and a verandah and garden hopefully we’ll stay here for a good long time and start to settle into some kind of routine, though routine is not the right word but just to feel like this is it, this is where I want to be in the world.

With good access to many beaches and only an hour out of Sydney, it’s an ideal spot and we can’t wait to get there next week, just three days before Christmas, time means little to us these days and I think sometimes there’s no present like time.

So, back that evening we have shocked our systems silly with stress and emotions and excitement, we both run low and have done since, except for spoiling ourselves last night with a swim, spa, sauna and steamroom special which chills us out and ultimately knocks us out, then to wake early this morning and into the city to sort out the printing of the invitations for our wedding and do some Christmas shopping and I feel good inside to buy such nice gifts for people and also sad that I’m unable to earn myself any money just yet to buy things for myself but that is something I’ll be getting used to, particularly as I’m applying for a degree course, in English, as well as some other courses if I don’t get into that one. They’ll leave me with some spare time in which I can look for work in the area which I reckon will be booming over the summer season and dead during the winter, so with the sun I may catch some part time work here and there to supplement Broni’s hard earned cash, things are going to be tight that’s for sure, but money doesn’t buy happiness, to overstate a cliche and really things couldn’t be going much better could they?

So, why so low?

I guess the future is daunting and scary and the stress of jobsearching and house hunting combined with wedding plans does get a bit much. I have to say that Broni is taking control of wedding plans and arrangements and doing an amazing job, I’m not sure why but I can’t get into an enthusiastic mood to work out all these complex details, this doesn’t mean I’m not enthusiastic about getting married but I wish someone could just organise and we could turn up and then we’d be married, but that’s me living in the clouds again. I am old enough to take control of these things but all piled on top of each other is a bit much for little tiny me, and sometimes I wish I didn’t feel like that, jeez, I’m talking in circles here.

Well, now we’re busy packing and wrapping presents and soon to go out to Libby’s and Dougie’s for a bit of a party, that should bring little smiles to our tired faces.

29th March 2021 – Writing this out again makes me realise the significance of that penultimate paragraph. Bigger changes were on the horizon a few years in the future and perhaps this feeling was its genesis.

I know, it can’t stop, I wonder – 25th December 1994

It’s still raining, which everyone is telling us is kind of unusual but at least it’s making the temperature a little more bearable.

We’re picked up by the Smith clan to head the few k’s up to sister C_’s (she’s not a nun, Broni’s sister you fool!). Joel’s running around like crazy showing us all his new toys that got he this morning – he knows it’s Christmas that’s for sure.

I don’t remember too much about today ‘cept I had a romantic time with Broni because I love her to pieces and we both wanted to show and share our love for each other which we haven’t had time enough for over the last couple of weeks,

We start to feel settled again – kind of!

And no signs point you on your way, just earth in all directions – 24th December 1994


Christmas Eve? Weird. It’s raining outside and grey and dreary but it’s not Christmas less your wrapped up in sweaters and tucked in bed with all the heaters on, and despite all the grey rain it’s still warm enough to walk around with a t-shirt on.

We’re still getting the house in order through the day, and early afternoon Broni’s mum and dad, with G_ pay us a visit. They’ve brought us everything else from Bathurst including a fridge – we’re nearly a house ‘cepting furniture still but they do bring the futon too, so now we nearly have a bed.

We feel great building up our new home slowly and gradually and we feel like we’re in a place we’d like to stay for a while.

As quick as they came they left, like a whirlwind and far too difficult for us to make head or tail of – that’s the Smith experience! But hey, dad Smith made an attempt to fix our washing machine but ended up running off with the pump to fix, that guy should slow down (though we’re very thankful for his efforts).

We finish off the day filling the fridge with food, eating some of it and slipping in a bottle of champagne just to see if the christmas spirit will make itself more clear.

2nd Apr 2021 – Since moving out of home, I forget which year – 1992 maybe – and meeting Bronwyn, we ended up living in 17 different places in the space of two years (including moving to the other side of the world). This house was no different as we only ended up staying for 6 months though I forget the reason we ended up leaving this one, maybe a rent increase. I know the next place we lived, an apartment in Gosford, on a hill overlooking the lake was a great place and I loved it there. The bathroom was windowless, stuck in the middle of the whole space and I remember drinking champagne and reading Homer’s The Iliad out loud whilst sitting in the bath. Alas we didn’t even make it through the six month contract in this place as we ended up back in the apartment in Allawah in Sydney.

Every single cinderblock, they all gonna blow – 22nd December 1994

Up and at ’em five hours later, something like six in the morning, Broni puts the finishing touches on our old place as I load all our boxed up rubbish and essentials into the truck, finally after two hours of that, we hit the road being careful that everything we’ve stacked up doesn’t fall over as we turn tight corners and anyway, top speed is only about a hundred and with the weight we’re only hitting ninety.

It’s hot again today but not so sunny, more a stifling mugginess. As soon as we leave the city we feel some relief from its constraints, the beauty of the Central Coast shining in the sun like pictures of Disneyland when I was young, so deep and colourful like paintings, so perfect not sure if they were real.

I have very fond memories of these and the images triggered my imagination deeply. I wanted to go to these places and see the U.S. myself.

We pick up the keys and pay our bond and arrive at the drive of our new home. The drive is incredibly steep and we realise everything in the truck will fall over if we try to tackle it so we park on the road and have to carry things down one at a time or put the old tea chests on the trolley we hired too. Back and forth till I’m saturated in sweat, in our brief rests we marvel at our new spacious home and it’s beautiful surroundings.

Everything’s off except the washing machine, I stick the trolley under it and bring it up towards the ramp, then with a big pull it drops the six inches off the truck on to the ramp and then hovers in slow motion, teetering on one wheel of the trolley and I’m pushing to stop it from tipping but it’s too heavy and I have to jump and watch as it upends and lands on it’s top corner, crash on the tarmac, front and sides slowly peeling away.

Me and Broni laugh our socks off, can’t be bothered with anger and worry, just pick the thing up and drag it down the back to the laundry room. We don’t think it works and we’ll ask Broni’s dad to have a look at it when he comes on Christmas Eve.

I hop in the shower and hot foot the van back across Sydney while Broni unpacks here at home. The drive is mad and hectic but I manage to find my way across the traffic straight to the rental place which had been broken into last night and had everything taken, did we get out in time? The city is gonna explode, pick a city any city, time limits for destruction.

I run to the train station still full of adrenaline energy, knowing I’m gonna be dead on my feet tomorrow but hell I can’t stop myself in my mad enthusiasm, back on the train up to the city and then up to Gosford and then the bus to Terrigal, all this takes a couple of hours or more and then in Terrigal, still running, still pumping energy I run around the streets trying to discover the best ways to get to our house from the seafront.

A light drizzle now from the dull grey sky but still warm and humid, still surfers in the water. I run the steepest hill I’ve ever seen and look at the map and work out where I am and then run down and up the next hill and down into our street set in the bush and the rainforest, I later discover this way looks the quickest on the map but didn’t account for the two hills, but I didn’t care, I loved the feel of new muscles pushing against my tight skin, pushing me on and on, fell into the shower and into some beer and into bed – fucked!

Your turn to drive, I’ll bring the beer, it’s an easy shift, no one to fear- 21st December 1994

Today is so hot, skin is melting. The wind burns as it blows, it’s nearing fifty in the sun. It’s too hot to do anything!

Broni, unfortunately, is away in this heat travelling on the trains up to Gosford for a job interview, I don’t envy her as I swim for a couple of hours at the pool, bare feet burning on the tarmac on the walk home.

With most everything packed up already I sit and play cards or tidy up a little more. Broni gets back later and we go to pick up the rental truck which is like the hugest thing I’ve ever driven and it seems ok, I turn out the first corner and head up to the lights and can’t find the brake, the taxi cab in front gettting closer, looking shinier and newer the closer we get, inching forward in a slow free fall, like slow motion replay, brief flashes of the thousand dollar excess hit my brain as I reach for the handbrake, not in the customary, by the seat position but at the dashboard, I’m reaching, Broni’s screaming, we’ve only been in the truck two minutes arggghh, pull the handbrakes, our hearts are pounding, God knows how far the bullbars were away from the shiny boot of the red and white taxi but we made it and sat in the road as the lights changed and we watched it pull away. phew!

Into the hectic traffic we go, confidence not good, we’re headed up to C_ and P_’s in Hornsby to pick up a free washing machine but time is against us, stuck in this pre-Christmas rush hour jam we decide to head east where we’re due for Scott’s 30th birthday at his parents house which has just got the coolest view down to the river and the ocean way in the distance and bushland dark and red in the sunset.

It’s still 30 degrees as we sit on the verandah with a ton of Scott and Lynette’s friends drinking up beer and champagne (mineral water for me) and it’s nine at night, insects buzzing round. There’s talk of a southerly heading up the coast which would bring relief, someone had a call from the south saying they got it at 7 or so, so it should be hitting Sydney very soon. But the air is still and hot.

Out of nowhere the breeze comes, the temperature drops five degrees in as many minutes, it’s such an amazing change it has to be experienced, within a second all the plastic cups are being whipped around the table and after a little tidy up everyone’s out on the verandah letting the wind blow over them.

We have to leave soon after this to go up to Hornsby to pick up the washing machine before everyone’s asleep, we get there about ten thirty and set the dogs off next door, eventually getting this huge machine in the back of the truck and securing it, I didn’t think it was gonna move anywhere it was so heavy but was advised to tie it down.

Anyways, we have a cuppa and leave about midnight and get to the end of the street and stop to look at the map and then the police come over and want to know if we had anything to do with the dogs barking and cop number one is ok and cop number two is a sarcastic asshole and I think twice before giving him some shit cos it’s late and I’ve got better things to be doing than fucking about with some idiot meathead cop, man this guy really lived up to his stereotype.

Anyway, tongue bitten we head off home and straight into that bed for the last time.