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U3A Writing: Australia Bound

...My journey took exactly four weeks from Tilbury, London to Station Pier, Melbourne. A few days after disembarking, I found myself walking along Collins Street. It was a hot day in mid-March with the sun beating down upon the pavements. I looked up at the sky and yes, the sky was a deep blue. I had realised my dream at last!...

Sylvia York tells of emigrating to Australia.

Like most English children in the 1940s I started primary school on my fifth birthday. My early memories of life at school consisted of constant interruptions to our learning as a result of bombing raids. As we lived on the outskirts of London and very close to the London Midland and Scottish Railway line, these raids were a daily event for us during the early days of WW2. At the sound of the sirens we children would march in crocodile fashion to the air raid shelters, which had been dug out underneath the playground, and stay there until we heard the "All Clear". We would sit quietly on wooden benches whilst a kindly middle-aged teacher kept our minds off the events outside by reading "Brer Rabbit" stories to us.

As time went by during WW2 the daylight raids grew less frequent, and we started to actually get down to real learning. This included an appreciation of music. Twice a week we would go to the school's assembly hall and sit cross-legged on the parquet floor.

In those days most of the teachers were older females. Many had been recalled by the education department to fill the gaps created by the males being drafted into war service. However, our music teacher, Miss Hoddle, was not one of these middle-aged women but a young and pretty lady, who was very good with children. She obviously liked teaching and had a real talent for it.

Although we were so young, she managed to teach us to read music and while she played the piano we kept time on the school’s musical instruments. These consisted of sleigh bells, tambourines, cymbals, triangles, and drums. We just loved her lessons and eagerly looked forward to them.

About 1943 Miss Hoddle left to get married and went to live in South Africa. I cannot remember how she got there. It must have been difficult to travel during the war, but I guess her new husband must have had an important position over there. After a while she wrote a letter to our class telling us about her recent visit to a game reserve and all the animals she had seen. She also wrote about the native children, who walked barefoot to school each day and on their way picked bananas off the roadside trees. She described how the sky was always blue and the sun always shining.

So at the age of about seven I decided then and there that this was the life for me. It wasn't the bananas that attracted me as much as the sunshine. It sounded so different from the bitter cold and the eternal grey skies which I knew. And so, I made up my mind to emigrate when I was grown up. I was going to live in the sun!

For the next few years I only knew that Africa was a nice hot place, but by the time I was 12 or 13 years old I had learnt in geography about a place called Australia. I could draw an outline of the continent and knew all about the artesian wells, the deserts, and the names of the states and their capital cities. Now my affection changed from Africa to Australia, which also seemed to be a nice place where the skies were always blue and the sun always shone.

In 1954, having just finished my schooling, I set sail for Australia at last. My journey took exactly four weeks from Tilbury, London to Station Pier, Melbourne. A few days after disembarking, I found myself walking along Collins Street. It was a hot day in mid-March with the sun beating down upon the pavements. I looked up at the sky and yes, the sky was a deep blue. I had realised my dream at last!

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