Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In Darwin

The hardest part of being back in Darwin, apart from being here without Ali, has been the rootlessness we're feeling. We sold our house before we left last year, so we haven't had a home to return to. We've been given one unconditionally by our dear friends Terri and Dennis Hart, in their home, but we know the fish rule about visitors (they both go off after three days) and keep feeling that we should move on, but they won't let us. We also stayed at Mike and Jill Baxter's beautiful house for several weeks when we first came back, before moving on to the Hart's after our trip down south.

In March we had a wonderful few days in Kuranda with Elizabeth Desailly and Garrett Gundry, and with Julia Christensen who came over too. Even managed a balloon flight on the last day up on the ranges. A few weeks later we travelled south to spend Easter with Lex's daughter Sophie and her family in Adelaide, including four lovely days at Kangaroo Island.

Following that, we stayed at Mark and Wendy Day's 160 year old National Trust farmhouse near Yankalilla on the Fleurieu Peninsula. That was like a week in Tuscany - the classic wooden table under autumn-leaved grapevines outside the back door, white-washed walls and bright red geraniums, and more peace and quiet than we knew what to do with. We picked pears and apples off the trees behind the house and ate them with local cheeses, a glass of red and fresh bread under the grapevines.

We drove a hire car over to Victoria via the magnificent coast road to spend a week in Jo's sister Leonie's house on Phillip Island while she and Craig were away. A couple of trips to Melbourne to organise our Thai visas and see Jo's parents - we were able to get a 6 month 2-entry visa each which gives us a bit more flexibility. We had plans to see many people up the east coast but in the end just found it too hard seeing people and we went back to Darwin, stayed a week, and then returned to Phuket together.

In late May we flew to Phuket to check on Malaika, and to organise some repairs and maintenance. The boat was in good shape apart from some superficial damage sustained in a gale that tore through the marina in March. It was difficult going back to Yacht Haven where the accident happened, but it was something we had to do eventually. We've decided to sell Malaika, and have listed her with an agent. In the meantime we've arranged for some minor repairs and maintenance to be carried out by some good local operators. The marina managers are looking after things for us and they've taken good care of Malaika in our absence.

We'll start looking for another boat back here, or perhaps in the US. We don't know what we're doing in the long term, but a few months back in Darwin has made us realise we'd rather be sailing, although the price we have to pay is being away from family. We may yet decide to restrict our cruising to Australia and SE Asian waters, so that we're not too far away from family and friends. We're now back in Darwin at the moment, and will stay in Australia till at least late August, for Shaun and Jennifer's wedding.

On Monday 15 June, the day after Ali's birthday (she would have turned 17), her old school, Darwin's Essington School, planted a tree for her in the school grounds. Principal David Cannon conducted a simple ceremony attended by family, friends and staff members as Ali's brothers Shaun and Tom planted the tree beside a piece of Kimberley rock bearing a bronze plaque. It was a beautiful gesture by the school. The tree is a Syzygium armstrongii, a flowering NT native.

The framed photo of Ali you can see in the photo above was later hung in the school library where we had lunch. When the new library is opened next June, they are going to dedicate the Early Childhood section as the "Ali van Os Collection" and hang Ali's photo there. It's so lovely of them to do all this, and to have a permanent physical memorial of Ali in Darwin.

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