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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.


A few weeks ago Penny and Peter flew overseas for an eight week's holiday, using business class, a real holiday. Despite the excess expense they still didn't manage to sleep, but happily accepted all the other indulgences. They took themselves off to the airport and no one farewelled them; they keep in touch with family and friends every night through e mail and skype. The whole trip has been pre-booked and prepaid and with a bank card for extras, tucked safely away, finances are little worry.

Ross came home from England at the end of his stay there in 1970, soon after the first flights for passengers had begun. Two years before, they had gone there by boat which took six weeks, through the Panama Canal: not the customary route. In that short space of time, no one would ever think of going by boat again.

While I was teaching at Greythorn High School in the early sixties, the young music teacher holidayed in the UK over the Christmas holidays. It was still a thing that normal people did not do. She had stinted herself for several years to save up the money and set off, full of expectations. The reality of that experience was grim. A trip by boat on the lower decks is something to be endured. She was poor and, on arriving, her accommodation was an unheated basement in the depth of an English winter; however she had seen something of the world, which, none of the rest of us had.

In the 1950's, while living in Canberra, our holidays involved travelling around Australia. With little money to squander, I made our sleeping bags; a double one for Roger and me. With an old carpet for a ground cover and a tent fly for a roof we set off, with a picnic basket and a supply of food in the boot. Time to stop, meant finding a fence on which to fix one side of the tent fly, while the other was tied to the car roof. Out came our carpet and we had a home. Once, there was a hasty departure when dawn revealed that we were camped outside someone's front door.

We travelled extensively and ate well, feasting on the best in the towns we passed through. Once, Roger made a cage, containing hens, which he attached to the boot, so that we ate roast chicken, along the way. You would never get away with this type of behaviour these days. We enjoyed being gypsies and saw so much. How the world has changed! My earliest memories of a holiday are at the age of seven, when we went camping at Lake Illawarra, south of Wollongong. We needed to catch the steam train to Albian Park, where a man with a horse and dray, picked us up and trundled out along sandy tracks, through the bush to the lake. Mum and Dad sat up- front with the driver, while the three children perched on top of the luggage in the back of then dray, all embraced in a cloud of flies. This was aborigine country and their cooking middens stretched along the coast, hence the flies. Christmas bells and flannel flowers grew far as we could see on either side, while waratahs bloomed like the guardians of the bush.

The train trip was the great excitement; the steam engine delighting every child, puffing out its steam and blowing its whistle. Travelling behind it was not always so pleasant, when smoke and cinders bothered our eyes. It always happened; we could not resist putting our heads out the window.

This was real camping, where Dad built stretchers out of the bush timber for the parents, while we children slept on the ground. We fished and swam, caught prawns in a net, walked along a sandy track to the next town and climbed the sand hills, over and over, over and over. Such happy days with no rules to bother us! Could there be any better?

Mim Egan