Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Living abroad is hard for many reasons but the one that proverbially cherry-tops the situation in its entirety, is the ever-present fear of someone getting seriously sick back home. The Boyfriend and I both left grandmothers at home, and considered ourselves fairly lucky to count ourselves among the few of our collective friends to have living grandparents as part of our respective families.
When New Years Eve in 2012 rolled around, we were calling Maxx Power's house of horrors our home. Tod and Copper were great housemates and even better drinking comrades. They were still jobless, but had accepted that this would most likely be the case until after the seasonal holidays.

As a result, money was tight. The Boyfriend and I were still pinching pennies, resigned to the fact that we would soon be shelling out thousands for return flights to Ireland and also terrified of the impending impoverishment once we touched back down on Celtic soil. Tod and Copper were flat broke, and avoiding paying Maxx the rent by offering to fix various problematic electronic devices around the house. It seemed to be working in their favour, and so we decided we would indeed celebrate the end of the year - in a fashion. We bought some five litre boxes of wine - you read that correctly - at a cool thirteen dollars each, and made a half-arsed plan to stumble into town once we were suitably inebriated and watch the fireworks.

At five in the afternoon, we were all shitfaced. I had seized control of the music playlist, and was allowing exactly thirty seconds of every song before loudly exclaiming I'd discovered a better one and proceeding to play that instead. To this cacophony, The Boyfriend, Tod and Copper were playing a boisterous game of charades, cigarettes hanging from every corner of every mouth. It wasn't our finest moment, and it wasn't the most sophisticated of soirees. But we carried on the pretense, boldly ignoring every job- and money- and future-related worry that so obviously plagued all of our minds.

Maxx wobbled in to join us for a while, waving a giant black sex toy around while blowing pungent cannabis smoke in my face. I sat there, grinding my molars to dust, painfully aware that this was only our third day in the house, resolving in my temporary, anger-fueled lucidity to get new accommodation as soon as was possible, no matter how short the time we had left.

The Boyfriend and I were having a cigarette when he got the phone call. Initially, we assumed it was his family's expected well-wishing for the new year. I could hear The Boyfriend chattering away from our room. Slowly, his voice got lower and my gut sank.

His grandmother, at an awesome ninety-three years of age, had passed away during the night. We would not be able to make it home for her funeral and that was almost harder than hearing the news of her death. Absence, unfortunately, comes part and parcel of living twenty six hours of a plane journey away from where you grew up.

Granny had had a typical big Irish family, and had been widowed as a young woman. I can only imagine what Ireland was like at the time, I can only guess how hard it would have been to raise a family of eight when a man was the sole bread-bringer and one suddenly found themselves without that man. I can barely fathom how she successfully survived it, and went on to become a grand- and great grand- mother. I'd only met her a couple of times, but remember one thing clearly - her huge, calloused hands. She was clearly a woman unafraid of hard toil, a woman used to graft. Her hands were physical reminders of her achievements. She had lived a life and lived it long and well.

And as The Boyfriend regaled us that afternoon with fondly remembered  stories of his father's mother, half-sad and half-amused as he lost himself in nostalgia, I realised that some things cannot be fixed and that some things cannot be changed. I told myself that night that if Yours Truly can live long and live well, I'd be considered among the greats like Granny. All my worries over visas and jobs and idiotic housemates and smoking and the future would pale in comparison.

 I'd live up to the Irish mantra, and assure myself it would all be feckin' grand.

We toasted Granny that night as the fireworks exploded overhead and for the first time going home didn't seem like the end of the world.

Fifteen days later, we got an email notification that our application for a 457 visa had been accepted and that we officially had the right to work and live in Australia until 2017.

We were sponsored. I like to think The Boyfriend's grandmother got sick of my whinging, and threw us a bone.