Our last week in Cambodia went so quickly my head was spinning. Trying to catch up with everyone before we left was almost an impossible task. We’ve met so many wonderful people – both Khmer and expats and all seemed to want to say goodbye and have one last drink (mainly with the Journo).
We tried to eat and drink at our favourite bars and cafes but there are just too many. Plus we spent a couple of days celebrating Khmer New Year with friends.
Once you get caught up in that it’s just go with the flow and enjoy the ride for however long it lasts. Thank you Buntheun and Sophal. What an amazing time with plenty of food and beer and an unusual ritual where the elderly women from the pagoda come to be washed by the local villagers.
After all this, with only a couple of days to go in Cambodia I was looking forward to a cold spell in the UK and seeing the Journo’s relations.
Sadly we got a message to say one of her uncle’s had passed away, which brings the contrasts of life right into your face.
The flights to London were without drama and we landed at Heathrow only a couple of minutes late, after being in a holding pattern for 10 minutes. The difference between Cambodia and England was incredible, just from looking out the window of the plane. Cambo is so brown and dry, while England looked waterlogged and soggy.
Now, I said before I was looking for a cooler climate but that only lasted half a dozen steps outside the airport terminal (holy shit – what was I thinking?).
After being told it has been a warm start to spring over there, I was expecting it to be – I dunno – not freezing. But the old dart really laid out the welcome mat – it didn’t need to be almost white.
We got to Marion and Dave’s place (the Journo’s aunt and uncle), put our bags in the room, then headed straight for a heater. After a hearty meal, and a warming cup of hot coffee, the Journo and I hit the sack. But after an hour or so I started to get a sharp pain in the chest, which resulted in a trip to accident and emergency at Epsom Hospital for a check. Four hours later, around 2am or so, the Journo, her aunty and I were on the way home in a taxi with the all clear. A great way to start my first trip to Pommyville. I was in the country about 10 hours and spent four of that in hospital.
Safely back in bed, nice and warm, I drifted off to sleep for a much-needed couple of hours.
As usual, I was awake far too early for my own good. We were up at sparrow’s fart to get some brekky and a coffee to warm up a little when the Journo’s aunty appeared. She informed us the hospital rang during the early hours to tell us I needed to go back to have another couple of tests later in the day. As it turns out, it was a bit of a problem in my chest X-ray, but an ultrasound checked out okay, so I was free to go and enjoy my time in the UK.
We had plans to get around and see London, then visit the countryside and do a trip over to Ireland for a week. After 18 months of summer in Australia and Cambodia, the temperature left a lot to be desired (“should have been here last week,” they said). We managed to get out and up to London for a quick look at some of the sights on one day, but the cold drove me back indoors.
On the day we were going to Guernsey for the Journo’s uncle’s funeral, we learnt my grandmother had passed away.
Now, the plans got a little muddled for me at this point but we worked it all out. I headed to Guernsey as planned — it snowed while we were on the runway at Gatwick Airport, which just added to the kind of month we were having. I attended Sam’s Uncle Vic’s funeral, then shortly after her cousin ferried me off to the airport and I headed back to Gatwick to catch a late night plane out of Gatwick to Melbourne.
It was a long and tiring flight to Melbourne on a packed plane, but I touched down around 5.30am and headed up to Shepparton (about two hours away) with my sister, making it in time for Grandma’s send-off.
Gladys Mary was buried beside her mother, father and sister in Nagambie cemetery on a cold, rainy day, which didn’t reflect how she lived.
There was always a cold drink on a hot day, or a warm soup on a cold day at Grandma’s, in a never-ending supply to the hundreds of visitors that frequented her all-night kitchen. I often had meals at midnight during the tomato season after working all day and loading trucks half the night.
She would take me to work at Murchison (about 30 kilometres away) and the one-hour drive for what should have been a half-hour trip was an indication she had slowed. One of my uncles once said there weren’t a lot of cars around that could keep pace with her on her trips to Melbourne during the 60s.
A two-pack a day smoker, she got ill one day in her 80s and gave up smoking cold turkey – she was bred tough, from Stawell in country Victoria.
I use to love going out to her seven-acre rural property during summer, when they irrigated, so I could run through the water in the paddocks in my jocks (about 45 years ago) and swimming in the channel with my brothers – among the yabbies, leeches and sometimes the odd snake.
Once I was old enough to ride a bike all that went by the wayside. But I always tried to be there on a Sunday, whenever I could, to get a piece of corned beef, some mashed spud, carrots and cabbage.
All these memories came flooding back when her casket was lowered into the ground, and brought tears to my eyes.
Now that the all-night kitchen has closed for the final time and one of the greatest influences in my life has laid down the rolling pin, I need to thank my entire family for the support during the tough times over the last few weeks.
RIP Gladys Mary Linehan.