19 Feb 2007
|About 3 am this morning the ship stopped offshore and stopped its engines which in turn woke me up. Perhaps knowing we were going to meet Beth and Eden in the next few hours made me remember Cold Harbour Hall when Beth was a young girl. I also remembered friends I made when I spent time with CIG in Sydney.
Lesley and I went ashore in Melbourne about 9am. We bought our all day tram ticket and boarded the 109 to Swanston St. By the time we reached our destination we almost new the life story of a local girl who was going to work and was keen to explain how the tram system worked. She was a New Zealander who had lived in Melbourne for four years and worked in IT. She told us there was a critical shortage of rented property and she was going to see a vacant house. She planned to share with three other girlfriends. If this fell through she would become pretty desperate.
We had breakfast in a sidewalk cafe run by two pretty Asian girls busy selling coffee to office workers on their way to work. Small trucks were delivering vegetables to the local shops and there was the sound of Michael Buble singing "Let me go home" competing with Ella Fitzgerald in a shopping mall one block down the street.
I noticed Lesley was crying as she caught sight of a pretty blonde girl wearing a sleeveless t-shirt in the hot weather with only one arm. Swanston Street was full of people and I was reminded of the importance of remembering how you feel about what you see and not just what you see.
Later on we shopped for flip flops and whilst stood outside a shop I was asked to take a photograph of an Australian family on holiday in Melbourne. They were a disgustingly handsome group comprising Mum, Dad, one son and two daughters. They explained they had asked me to take the photograph since I had a camera hanging around my neck and therefore was not likely to run off with theirs. Whilst I was taking the photographs two fellow QE2 passengers walked by and asked if I was returning to the ship or if I had found a new job.
Lesley and I met Beth and Eden at a cafe in the Carlton District near Melbourne University. As we sat having coffee and trying to condense ten years of history as well as our cruise experiences thus far, an aboriginal girl called Leanne was working the customers for what I assumed was cash. Beth recognised her instantly as someone she had worked with and helped in the past. It was at that moment I realised the little gangly girl at Cold Harbour Hall had turned into a woman of substance.
There was an instant contract of mutual trust and respect between the two women which was written in their eyes and their dialogue was a privilege to witness.
Beth and Eden then took us to the Riverside Cafe on the river Yarra for lunch where an Australian lady offered to take photographs of the four of us. Her offer was gratefully accepted and once the photographs had been taken she thanked us for making her happy,by making us happy. I thanked her, gave her a hug and asked her name. She said she was called Joy.
After a delightful lunch taken under the shade of the trees and non-stop chatting we rowed down the river where conversation was only punctuated to take photographs of local birds on the river.
Beth and Eden are a remarkable couple who have chosen a rocky path in life looking after others. Today has been an honour and a privilege to be in their company and we love them dearly.
We returned to the ship about 4.30pm where we said our goodbyes and just about held back the tears.