I’m back. If visiting Australia wasn’t unsettling enough, being back in Switzerland matches it, point for point. Suddenly there are more leaves on the ground than on the trees, and those that do manage to cling on are shades of gold and red, a last burst of colour before winter. The mornings are dark, the nights cold and the shops full of puffy jackets and ski boots. It feels like one minute we were wearing sandals and floppy hats in sunny Brisbane and the next I’m going up to the attic to dig out our warmest clothes, trying vainly to find matching gloves and wondering just how an eight-year old girl can grow out of absolutely everything in the pitifully few months since I packed it all away.
But if there’s one thing designed to make you feel glad to be back it’s engine trouble. Engine number four on our overly large aircraft wasn’t working properly during takeoff, so we languished on the runway for an hour or so while those in charge decided what to do. In the end we took off, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who let out a big sigh of relief when we eventually landed once more on solid ground. Perhaps this is the whole purpose of air travel, to make the transition from one place to another just that bit easier; home, you realise, is anywhere but up in the air.
And my Phd?
My desk is covered with stacks of textbooks, novels, maps of Queensland, and photocopied chapters of books (I gave thanks to the Emirate gods for giving us such a generous luggage allowance). I gloried in the abundance of new and second-hand bookshops (everything in English!), I spent days in the State Library of Queensland, poring over rare historical texts, vainly trying to turn pages while wearing ill-fitting white gloves that the librarian assured me fit absolutely no-one. I drank copious cups of tea with my mother while she talked about her childhood in Far North Queensland, and I marvelled at the lushness of the subtropical plants and birds in my parents’ garden, a sheer contrast with what I currently see out my window here in Switzerland.
I also met with my supervisor for the first time, which was an extremely gratifying experience because she let me ramble on excitedly about my plans while asking exactly the right questions. What a woman! She also didn’t seem fazed (at least on the outside) at the prospect of supervising someone living on the other side of the world. Perhaps I just caught her at a good moment.
The next step? To decide what to tackle first. Should I lose myself in my novel once more after a few weeks away or pick up the top book in the nearest pile on my desk. Should I start investigating the intriguing leads I uncovered in my time in the library in Brisbane or…oh, to have more time!
Teaching, motherhood, writing and study, a potent mix.
(here’s the garden in which I sat drinking many a cup of tea while dreaming of novels)