January – Launceston

I flew to Launceston at the end of a strange day. It was the day of the surreal, awful tragedy on Bourke St. It was the first time I’d been at the ABC on a day like that. As the rest of the building leapt into breaking news mode, our peripheral corner had long, back-to-back meetings preparing for the Heywire Summit. I left early, skirted around the cordoned off section of the city. On the bus to the airport I listened to people call their loved ones to say they were safe, they hadn’t been mixed up in it all.
It was a strange relief to land in Launceston and discover that the place we were staying was a black-hole for mobile reception. I was forced to switch off from the world, just for a little while. Boyfriend had already been in Tassie for ten days. I leant into him and pushed the stress of work and that strange, awful Friday to the edge of my brain.
The first time I visited Tasmania was to meet his parents, almost five years ago. My boyfriend is from Tasmania. His family are Tasmanian in the same way that other people’s families are Dutch or Irish. I flew down to help him pack up and move to the mainland. It was strange visiting for the first time to help him. It was strange being the person who took him away. We drove up the east coast together, from Hobart to Newcastle. Launceston was the first place we stopped.
My visit to Launceston this time, was to celebrate two family birthdays. We parked behind a church and as we walked to the pub for his aunt’s birthday dinner, boyfriend tried to map everyone out for me as best he could – which aunts and uncles were from which side of the family, who belonged to who. We ate in the back room of a little corner pub, decorated with balloons and paper pinwheels. I tried to remember names, connect people to their branch of the family. I wondered why I struggle to hold names in my head, especially the first time I meet someone. Maybe it’s because small talk takes so much of my concentration, that introductions just slip away.
One of the side effects of falling in love is the way your family gets quite suddenly much bigger. My boyfriend’s family is so different to mine. His cousins are mostly older than him, where I’m one of the eldest. My family are loud and sprawling and his always feels quieter, neater somehow. They’re different. Just different. All families are different, I suppose.
Boyfriend and I left dinner early and drove back to the cabin we were staying in. A short walk away was small hill, shaped like a traffic cone. We walked up the steep incline to the rose-covered rotunda on the top and looked out at distant lights and the darkness and the stars.

Between family outings we caught up with our friend Britt. We went to Cataract Gorge together and it was as unreal as I remember. Your brain can’t quite comprehend that this seam of rock and trees and water runs through a city, that either side, just out of sight, there are houses and shops and businesses. It seems like the most Tasmanian thing, to have people and nature crammed together like it’s nothing. So much of Tasmania is so breathtakingly, almost aggressively beautiful.
On the last day of the trip, we had lunch at a café on a hill. The ground dropped away underneath it, sweeping downwards toward a lake and a paddock filled with caravans. Boyfriend’s mum wanted her birthday lunch to be somewhere with a view. I decided that was rather a good way to choose where to have lunch, although almost everywhere has a view in Tasmania. Boyfriend bought a stack of old photos and we passed them around the table. There were photos of his parents when they were younger, of him and his brothers as children, of family Christmases and birthdays. One photo – of him as a small child, in blue striped pyjamas with a red collar – I loved so much that he let me bring it home and frame it.  We are made up of the people in our families. Seeing my boyfriend with his parents and brothers and aunts and uncles always feels like seeing him in context.
At the airport I logged in to social media for the first time since Friday and the world came flooding back in. With it worries about work crowded back into my brain and I closed my eyes and leaned into my boyfriend. It occurred to me that he is my family too. We are our own family, made up of parts of each other.

My goal for 2017 is to go somewhere every month. 
Preferably out of the city. Preferably to spend time with people I love.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year