When the other teachers started talking about the Year 3 musical “Joseph”, I realised the year was coming to an end. To my relief I was designated “Wardrobe Mistress” until it dawned on me I had to find costumes for 70 or more children. Not to worry, there was a room full of costumes because like everything else, this had been done before.
I have never participated in a nativity play or religious musical in an Australian school but we practised our carols and spoke our lines until the big night arrived. Parents and teachers alike enjoyed watching the 7 and 8 year old children re-enact the story of the birth of Jesus.
Meanwhile other Christmassy things were happening. Birmingham was having its annual Frankfurt Christmas market which ran from 18 November to 22 December. There were over sixty stalls spread out over Victoria Square selling candles, glasswork, ceramics and of course, Christmas decorations. We were more interested in the German breads and pastries as I had had my fill of beer and Frankfurters while we were in Europe. The canals were ablaze with lights as decorated boats moved slowly along. Live music added to the atmosphere. Birmingham was looking its best.
Before we left for home we had to sell the car. We took its photo for the advertisement in the Auto Trader. It appeared on Friday with the catchy title “Leaving for Australia”. A man rang that day and paid a deposit of £100, agreeing to pick it up the following Friday. That suited us as M, who usually gave me a lift to school, was at camp all week. John drove me to school so he could keep the car during the day.
We had just returned from a walk around the lake. It was about 3 degrees and we were well rugged up. We were amazed to see people sailing dingies in that temperature. The lake was very high as it had been the wettest year for many years (just our luck). One of the local sailors told us the dam wall could break because of the extra pressure on it (it last broke in 1792).
Carol’s parents, Alan and Barbara invited us over for a buffet meal. Carol’s sister Helen and some other family members were there. After the meal we played bar-room skittles which kept us entertained until after midnight. Helen gave us tickets for the evening Ghost Walk in Lichfield. I quote Councillor Ian Pritchard, “As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, this is the perfect time to discover the dark and mysterious side of Lichfield – if you’re brave enough”.
On a cold night we visited the guildhall prison cells, heard the history of the Market Square burnings, looked for the ghost supposedly lurking in Dam Street and the Close and left knowing more about Lichfield’s history than we did before.
Checking our tickets for the flight home we realised that to qualify for our cheaper fares we had to be home within twelve months of leaving. That meant leaving the day after school finished and no stop overs on the way home. We changed our tickets so we would be home for Christmas. Barbara and Alan were very concerned that we would miss out on an English Christmas so we celebrated at their place a week early, enjoying the roast turkey and plum pudding in a more fitting environment than Australia in the middle of summer.
As our time in Chasetown drew to an end we decided to walk around the village, taking photos of the shops and pubs.
The school staff were having their Christmas party at the Golf Club. Someone must have spoken to the band because we were on the dance floor when the band began to play ” I come from a land down under….” I must admit tears came to my eyes. I really was missing home.
It was hard to believe that soon we would leave our English home. There were regrets but as I wrote in an email to a friend:
Nevertheless the BBQ in the courtyard at home on a balmy summer’s evening is very inviting and we are looking forward to the beach, the restaurants in Wollongong and of course seeing our family. Carina is returning from England in April, in time for John’s 60th. We are also looking forward to putting the boat in the “warm” water, taking the van for a holiday and I am relishing a year back in the Australian education system.