Deciding to emigrate.
Probably for most of our married lives we have had a vague notion of leaving Britain for somewhere. I can remember as a 7 year old digging my way through to Australia from my Nan's back garden in north London. (I abandoned that project after a foot and a half!) Having left the family home when I was 18 when I went to music college in London I was already "away from home" and moving 230 miles north 10 years later was no great hardship. My wife, however, has lived all her life around Birkenhead and has established deep roots there. I guess being the youngest child she was always especially close to her mum and dad so when the subject of emigration cropped up it was always dismissed as she would not leave her parents. Her father died in 1990 throwing Carol and her mum even closer together. Sadly her mum was diagnosed with lung cancer early in 1998 and given only 3 to 6 months to live. Phyllis, my mother-in-law, was fantastically philosophical about this saying that she has had her life. This was the catalyst to start our emigration dream running. She was one of the few people that we could actually discus our process with as we felt treacherous to our friends and other family members. Phyllis died on 29 December 1998 peacefully and with great dignity, surrounded by love and her extended family, and knowing that our application was in the post.
So, where do we emigrate to? The fundamental question is why emigrate at all? This question could do with careful consideration and will have a bearing on where to go, if at all. For us it was for a life style change. As company accountant I was finding myself working 10 hours a day as normal and 12 or 13 hours if the pressure was on. On one occasion I have even had to work until 3:45 a.m., only to be back in at 8:30 a.m. that same morning! All for no extra money and, what really hurts, no gratitude nor recognition of the effort. Add the best part of an hour travelling time to each end of the day and you can see that I frequently went several days without seeing the kids at all. Almost every day I just felt stressed out, having given all my energy to work I had precious little to give to my family. Things were not going to get better. Although I had been trying to change jobs for some 9 months I was not getting anywhere, presumably because of my age and the general job situation in the Merseyside region. Also we feel that Britain is clogged up. Driving anywhere is frequently frustrating with major traffic jams on the main routes and motorways and that is only expected to get worse. Indeed, as we were well into the process, there was a whole load of media coverage on "gridlock Britain" where traffic in any of the main population areas will just grind to a halt. Then there is the housing. Sure, we had a nice house, with 6 bedrooms and 4 reception rooms. But we're not talking detached in 2 acres up a leafy lane somewhere. We're talking terraced with a concrete front parking area for two cars (just) and a back garden which is swallowed up by a double garage, that you can't access from the narrow back entry, and the washing line. You feel squeezed in with everybody else. Then there's Carol's "Raynauds Syndrome" where her fingers go white and painful when Michael Fish starts talking single figures! Something had to change.
My first thoughts were for France. They have a pretty laid back attitude, plenty of land, and being part of the EEC we could simply go and live there. It has the advantage of being not far off the coast of England so visits to and from would be quick and simple. 25 years ago I used to speak French very well, at least conversational, and believe that if I had to, it would quickly come back to me. Kids are always quick on the uptake so that left Cal who doesn't speak any French. Cal is not a very confident individual thus this language isolation would be too much. France; "nul points"!
Into the think tank went the other great destinations: America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand. Cal fancied Canada but when I reminded her that they get cold with a capital "F" she reassessed her ideas! Neither of us fancied USA as we felt that the life style was probably too similar to Britain and our general prejudice was that it is too violent with everybody running around with magnum automatics! South Africa had an appeal for me as my paternal grandmother was born there. But with the unstable political situation out there and the amount of violent crime as the various factions try and sort out their troubled past put paid to that notion. New Zealand looks nice. Tremendous beauty and loads of land. But the climate on paper appears to be a little too close to the British climate and what would I do there, as a qualified accountant? All I know about sheep is that they taste great with mint sauce! Australia, with its vast spaces and hot climate, its well publicised leisure ethic, its outdoors lifestyle and enormous diversity, plus its Englishness made it an almost ideal choice. The only downside being the 24 hour journey to get there and the associated cost.
So we were settled on Australia. I would point out that we have never been there at all! Here is a country almost 3 million square miles big (UK is under 95 thousand). Which tiny bit do we actually go to? Looking at "The Times Atlas of the World" and "Living and Working in Australia" we drew a line from Perth to Sydney. Above this line we felt it would be too hot and humid for us. Sydney was dismissed as being "London in the sun". That left Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart. Hobart and Melbourne were dismissed as having a climate too much like Britain: why fly half way round the world to get the same weather? So it was Adelaide or Perth. Perth was a close second and, indeed, one of our migrating pen-pals had their visas stamped in Adelaide and subsequently settled in Perth. Adelaide was "too quiet" for them! (My so-called friends at work said that it was because they knew that we were going there!) We felt that Perth was too isolated from the rest of "Australian civilisation". Thus out of everywhere in the world we could have gone, we decided to go to Adelaide: capital of South Australia.