Taking to the waves

What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted in quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.

So Rosemary and Bill have journeyed back from Iran. They’ve spent about a month in the UK before Bill got a job working for the Australian government. And now they’re on their way to Australia.

But what’s the best way to get to Australia when you have three kids?

Nowadays there is only really one way to travel. You fly. But back then flights took longer, had more stops, and were generally more difficult to navigate with children – not only did Rosemary have three children but she was also pregnant.

So it was decided that instead of flying, the family of five and a half would take to the waves. The Oriana ocean liner, now discontinued, made much more sense as a way to travel; especially now that the Suez Canal had just opened back up. Suddenly journeying to Australia by boat was once again economically feasible.

And to top it all off, the journey would take three weeks, making it a mini-holiday. And with day-care provided on board it meant Rosemary and Bill could have a real, child-free holiday (at least during the days).

So Rosemary and Bill set off. They said goodbye to their families once again and boarded the boat. Up until this point, their travels had always been laced with the idea that they wouldn’t be gone for too long. In fact this very idea was part of what made Iran so hard (see previous posts on Rosemary’s time in Iran).

But something about this was different. There was a feeling, an understanding, that this move would be permanent. Australia was to be their new home.

Rosemary and Bill got on the boat in Southampton. They were travelling first class, courtesy of Bill’s work. As the boat sailed down the English Channel on that gorgeous – and rare – summer’s day, Rosemary looked out and saw all the places she knew slowly pass by. There was Bournemouth, Poole, Exmouth. As she saw her old stomping grounds she wondered when, if ever, she would see them again.

Though nothing like the luxury cruise liners we have nowadays, the Oriana had its share of entertainment. There were plenty of sporting facilities and swimming pools. There were games and movies.

“But we weren’t particularly interested in that. We were happy really just to enjoy the peace and quiet and be able to read… And just be up on deck.”

“I remember it as being a very nice time with special treatment like meeting the captain and cocktail parties and things like that once in a while. And dinner at the captain’s table on one special evening. We had to dress up. But it wasn’t my kind of life. I can live without that kind of luxury.”

For a girl who grew up on the farm, luxury like this was enjoyed but not desired.

It was strange, really. Rosemary thoroughly enjoyed the three-week holiday journey to Australia. It was a time where she didn’t have to worry about everything. She could relax and enjoy life with Bill – at least during the times when Bill wasn’t seasick.

But something about it felt odd. She had just come from living four years in Iran, where she had seen a great deal of poverty, she had just spent a month back on her family’s farm, where life was simple. And now she found herself in this place of unnecessary luxury.

“We were very specially favoured. I felt badly in a way because it seemed like we had two-thirds of the boat and half the passengers, whereas the other half was much more crammed. We just had special treatment and it seemed awfully unfair.”

Not to mention the fact that Rosemary and all the other first-class passengers were allowed to enter the rest of the boat but the rest of the boat couldn’t enter the first class areas. It just seemed odd to Rosemary. And while she was able to hand her children off to the day-care during the day, she had a sneaky suspicion that there wasn’t such day-care facilities for those without first class tickets.

So it was an enjoyable journey, but it was a strange journey. And Rosemary’s feelings of confliction stayed with her throughout the three weeks on the waves.

Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. They are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.

Photo Credit: The photo in the logo was provided by Matt Hardy on Unsplash. It is an image of the waters off of Bondi Beach, which I suppose is appropriate given Bill and Rosemary’s destination. Anyway, if you would like to see more of their work, click here.