(apologies to The Partridge Family)
I think I love you
Isn’t that what life is made of?
Though it worries me to say
I never felt this way
I Think I Love You – The Partidge Family 1970
There was a feeling of uncertainty in the air, of not knowing one’s future. The Department of Education, in its wisdom, would decide Joanne’s fate and send her a telegram towards the end of January. In it would be the name of one of the 1500 Primary Schools in NSW where she would be appointed.
In the meantime the long summer holidays stretched ahead and Leo, also at a loose end, suggested they pack the tent and drive to Queensland.
‘I’d love to go,’ she said doubtfully, ‘but my mother…. I don’t think she would approve.’
‘We’ll call in on my uncle and aunt in Newcastle,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Tell her we are staying with my relatives up there.’
Uncle Jack owned a corner store. He greeted Leo and Joanne with enthusiasm.
‘We’ll get takeaway Chinese tonight. We always do on a Friday night. Gives Martha a bit of a break.’
Joanne found the food stuck in her throat. She was feeling very unwell and slipped off to bed early, complaining of a sore throat.
The next day they farewelled their genial hosts and drove as far as Coffs Harbour. Leo pitched the tent, which was a primitive affair, just a triangle with no floor. Joanne lay curled up on her sleeping bag in misery, her body aching, her throat increasingly painful. After a restless night where she burned up with fever Leo decided to take her to the hospital. She lay face down on a bed while the doctor injected her in the bottom with a large syringe.
‘Where are you staying?’ asked the doctor.
‘At the caravan park in a tent,’ said Leo, looking worried.
‘She is too sick to go back to a tent. If you can get her into a motel with air conditioning and a proper bed she should recover quite rapidly. I’ve just given her an injection of penicillin for her Strep throat.’
Joanne couldn’t remember much of that day. She slept in the cool air conditioning and woke to the sound of Leo lighting a small gas camping stove on the floor of the motel room. He opened a packet of soup and added water, stirring the contents rapidly. Then he removed the saucepan and carefully balanced a piece of bread on a folding toaster contraption.
‘Here you are!’ he said, passing her a bowl of soup with bits of toast floating around the top. ‘Would you like me to feed you?’
She tentatively swallowed the hot soup and found her throat was already improving. Hopefully they could continue travelling north tomorrow.
The big attraction on the Gold Coast was Marineland. Joanne, feeling almost fully recovered, sat next to Leo in her orange bikini, letting the hot summer sun caress her skin. They were watching dolphins leap from the water as the keeper held a fish above their noses on the end of a stick. They were asking for volunteers to feed the dolphins from the end of a long diving board. A man came up to Joanne and asked if she would like to do it. There would be rewards for her participation.
She stepped gingerly onto the diving board and hung the fish out over the end. The dolphin leapt, grabbed and then a hand pushed her from behind. As she fell into the water all she could think of was her contact lenses. She swam, eyes closed, to the edge of the pool and was relieved that the world around her was still in focus. They gave her tickets to shows and bars and restaurants but Leo would have to pay his share so they didn’t use most of them because money was short.
They set the tent up in Noosa. The caravan park was on the edge of a creek. Across the road and over a small grassy knoll was the beach, where long haired youths rode surfboards on the perfect waves. A few shops straggled along the road but they left them alone, preferring to cook on their camp stove and drink instant coffee.
On the way home they splashed out on another motel in Grafton as Joanne was still not fully recovered from her illness.
One thing she had learned from their rather disastrous holiday was that Leo was there for her ‘in sickness and in health’. However they were both careful not to appear too committed and their favourite travelling road song was:
We’ll sing in the sunshine
We’ll laugh every day
We’ll sing in the sunshine
And I’ll be on my way
Gale Garnett-We’ll Sing in the Sunshine-1966