It was a rainy night, and Jamie went to the bar he had been going to, off and on, for a long time. Tonight there was nobody he knew, only a scattering of tourists. He sank a couple of beers and reflected on how much his life suited him. He had mates who were married and tied down and balding and worrying about money, not like him. He knew he still looked under 30. He worked a few days a week in his father’s building company, and the rest of the time, he surfed. His lived in a little place a block back from the beach, had lived there for years. His father didn’t appreciate his lifestyle, but would never upset his mother by making an issue of it, and who else did they have to leave it to anyway? He’d found the meaning of life at 13, and since then it had been an endless summer. The surf, a few mates to hang around with sometimes, a bit of dope now and then, chicks to pass the time with, nothing too heavy, no ties.
Thinking of the chicks, his eyes scanned the tourists. Yep, there were a few girls. One in particular, a girl with long blonde plaits (plaits!) and a beautiful complexion, was looking around her with a strange intensity. She seemed to be alone, so he went over and introduced himself. Her name was Greta, and she was a backpacker from Germany, seeing the world. She’d always wanted to come to Australia.
He rolled out the pure Australian surfer boy persona, and watched her interest.
“Jamie,” she said. “You’re a surfer. Have you always lived at this place?”
“Sure,” he said, “Born and bred.”
“And maybe you have come to this bar many times, for many years?” she stated.
“Well, yeah, I guess so. And whereabouts in Germany are you from?”
“Stuttgart” she said. “I think you like German girls.”
There was a coolness about the way she said it, but he didn’t let it put him off.
“Sure. German girls are my favourite. The rain’s stopped. Would you like to see the beach at night?”
There was an intensity of emotions, sentiment, irony, sadness.
“Don’t you have a family to be getting back to?” she asked.
“Nope, not me. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids, but I’ve never had any of my own, and never will.”
“Are you sure?” she said.
“What do you mean?” He laughed.
“Don’t you remember Karen,” she said. “The letters she sent you? The phone calls? About being pregnant?”
“What? Who is this Karen you’re talking about”, he said, laughing but uneasy.
“My mother,” she said.
Arrived in Glasgow to meet daughter later in day at the hotel she had booked, realised on arrival that the information about the hotel was in my work email back at the office. Went to Tourist Info, tried to get a list of hotels, hoping I would recognise the name, no luck, decided in the end to go back to the airport and wait for her there.
Went to airport knowing there were actually two airports, hoping I had the right one, taking my baggage with me on the bus, only one flight due in from Copenhagen later in the day, it was delayed, nobody could tell me why, rising anxiety.
Finally plane arrived and she disembarked, happy to see me there, the plane had had to turn back to Copenhagen airport because of a freak accident on first take-off – a flight of birds flew straight into the engine, we took the bus back into town, and went to our hotel – sleep and bliss.
Prior to above: Misunderstood boarding signs at home departure airport, had meant to call the phone service and get my phone plan put on hold for a month, didn’t in the end make this call, at the first European airport, I could have got a European SIM, but I said no because I was frightened of getting into trouble with the phone company – and of course I couldn’t call them, because I didn’t have a phone. Spoke to Tourist Information – they said, simplest thing is to buy another phone, which I did, before heading out to the airport.
Spent the night trying to call people at home according to the instructions – didn’t work. I kept calling the Service Number. After several hours, they said, Oh well, we’ll have to call the technical section. What? Haven’t you called the technical section yet? Their feedback was that the phones were fine, the numbers I had tried to call were disconnected. They are my home number and my mother! I called them on my daughter’s phone in the last few hours! Sorry, that is our last word.
Took it back to the shop I had bought it, problems about a refund. I left it there with them. Result: Less frustration, but no phone for the rest of the journey.
Similar problem with credit cards because I hadn’t called them prior to departure (again, problem at the airport) to say would be using them OS, and then didn’t know which numbers to call on daughter’s phone.
No money, lots of Euros, couldn’t help pay for hire car, so paid for other expenses on currency card, it more or less evened out.
I finally managed to email other daughter, who looked it up on the web, and contacted me, and I called them from my first daughter’s phone.
Trying to vote in Paris: I couldn’t vote before I left, because the voting ahead started two days after my departure date. The one day I was in the right city in Scotland to pre-vote, I just couldn’t get there. On the last day for foreign voting, I was in Paris. I set off for the consulate by public transport, Climax
I had it all worked out, but I couldn’t work the ticket machine in the Metro Station and in the end I gave up.
I consoled myself by thinking that it probably wouldn’t have made much difference, and when I finally saw the results, I was confirmed in that.
Lost in Marseilles. Walking around looking for my hotel – surely it was just uphill from the harbour.
Then it was getting dark, and the area seemed rather seedy.
Tried to catch a taxi, the taxi-driver said, it’s just around the corner.
Realised that I I had missed my plane (12 pm is midday not midnight) when I was nearly at the airport.
Traipsing around the airport looking for someone to help me: Singapore Airlines has gone home for the day, come back and see them in the morning.
Great politeness, Australians do this all the time, got on the same flight the next day.
In between previous climax and Ending 6:
Trying to find accommodation for the night near the airport: very helpful staff member making dozens of phone calls, finally accepted somewhere quite a way away.
Taxi driver, another dodgy taxi driver, dumped me, on the wrong side of the road from what he said was my hotel, had to cross the road with my luggage, they told me it wasn’t my hotel, gestured vaguely up the road when I asked about where it was then. It was dark, in a “bad area”, no taxis, I had no phone, nobody knew where I was, and I had my luggage. I felt quite desperate.
Rescued by a series of young people, got to hotel.
Other elements to include for interest:
Themes: bad taxi drivers, just missing out on interesting things by one day or one hour, the coffee made on long-life milk, the photographs I missed, luggage too heavy and unwieldy, B&B ladies
- Beautiful scenery +++
- Beautiful buildings +++
- Beggar at Glasgow train station
- Glasgow and how it feels
- “The MacNab” portrait in Kelvin Grove Museum and Art Gallery
- The little cottage
- Journey north
- Little herring fishing town
- The Orkneys
- Travelling to Paris
- Paris good and bad
- Train journey
- Sheep at Charles de Gaulle Airport
- Ordinary World
Glimpse of daily life on O’Reilly’s dairy farm/guesthouse.
- Call to adventure
Discussion with relative during visit, realised that the plane must have been heading to Lismore as planned, working out where it would have gone – line on map (intellectual), sense of responsibility about trying to find the wreck
- Refusal of the call
Little girl asks to go with him, this makes him think about how his wife and child would grieve if he did not return – almost decides not to go.
- Meeting with the mentor
Flashback to someone who taught him bushcraft – could have been an Aboriginal person (about learning the way and the way back without maps), or some old bushie who learnt from an Aboriginal person, or even someone older in his own family.
- Crossing the threshold
Packing up the loaves of bread, butter onions, tea and sugar, setting off, hard going. Sent horse back.
- Tests, allies and enemies
Spent the night in the bush, he heard the dingoes howling not far away, as they do around dead bodies, he couldn’t sleep, cold and wet, rainforest at night, the Aborigines wouldn’t pass the night there (Mirkwood).
Next morning, climbs to peak of Mt Throakban – cloud prevented visibility, the – clouds split, and he saw a treetop that was light brown, 8 km away. He knew that reaching that spot would require amazing skill, and also he would have to keep his bearings.
- The ordeal
Five hours to the top of the next ridge, starting to tire, slump in morale – meaningful success (finding anyone alive) seemed impossible. The on the next ridge, he was in cloud again, did not get another cloud break, so he couldn’t get another glimpse on the burnt tree. Kept on for another three hours.
- The reward
Heard the Cooee, at first thought it was another searcher, didn’t believe anyone could have survived so long. Cooeed back, it was not so far away, they kept cooeeing back and forth until he reached them. “You poor bastards”, he said. News of Bradman 165 not out in the Ashes.
- The road back
Had to get help, left them, went down to the creek, set off down the creek, found Westray’s body, realised he was dead, spooked at that point, kept on going, falling over, wading through deep pools, finally heard a shot, found a young farmhand who was out shooting.
- The resurrection
Farmhand got him a horse, he reached a homestead with a phone (1 am) roused district, everyone turned out, advance party with doctor set out at 2:30 am, they reached the survivors after 24 hours (amazing achievement), and then brought them back. (The survivors had given up hope before O’Reilly arrived.
- Return with the elixir
Returned home, long and successful life, lived to write his books and tell the tale.